McGuinty Government Protects The Great Lakes Basin
TORONTO, Oct. 16 /CNW/ -
STATEMENT BY MINISTER OF NATURAL RE
SOURCES DONNA CANSFIELD:
On October 3, United States President George W. Bush signed the Great
Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact.
His signature followed the ratification of the compact by eight Great
Lakes states - Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio,
Pennsylvania and Wisconsin - and the U.S. Congress. This step enacts in U.S.
law a historic cross-border partnership among Ontario, Quebec and the Great
Lakes states to protect the waters of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River
In 2005, Premier Dalton McGuinty, Quebec Premier Jean Charest and the
governors of the eight states signed a good-faith agreement protecting the
waters of the basin. The states also endorsed a companion interstate compact.
The agreement and the compact:
- place a virtual ban on removing or transferring water out of the
Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin;
- establish a common, basin-wide standard for managing the resource;
- set goals and objectives for conserving water; and
- commit the parties to creating a science strategy for critical issues
facing the Great Lakes, such as the impacts of climate change and the
cumulative effects of water use.
The terms of the agreement were incorporated in Ontario's 2007
Safeguarding and Sustaining Ontario's Water Act. Quebec's National Assembly
voted to endorse the agreement and tabled legislation in June. With the U.S.
ratification of the compact, the terms of the agreement and compact will apply
throughout the Great Lakes states.
This international partnership is a landmark in cooperation among
governments and across borders. In addition to this partnership, the advice
and input of a multi-party advisory panel, Ontario First Nations and the
public was critical in helping Ontario pursue a strong agreement.
The Great Lakes are of vital importance to Ontario, and we look forward
to collaborating with our neighbours. Most Ontario residents get their
drinking water from the Great Lakes Basin and it supports more than half of
Canada's manufacturing output, a quarter of the country's agriculture and
$300 billion annually in trade between Ontario and the U.S.
The Great Lakes agreement and compact are part of Ontario's long-term
plan to work with other governments and partners to protect, restore and
sustain the Great Lakes for the benefit of Ontarians now and in the future.
Disponible en français
THE GREAT LAKES-ST. LAWRENCE RIVER BASIN
United States President George W. Bush has signed the Great Lakes-St.
Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact, following the approval of the
compact by the U.S. Congress on September 23. Now that the president has
signed the compact, the good-faith commitments of an agreement signed in 2005
by Ontario, Quebec and the eight Great Lakes states will become law on
December 8, 2008.
The passing of the compact is great news for Ontario. It further protects
Great Lakes Basin waters against removals or transfers of water out of the
basin. The compact also promotes common goals and objectives across the basin
that will lead to programs in each state and province to conserve water and
use it more efficiently.
The Great Lakes are vital to Ontario's economy, environment and culture.
Ninety-eight per cent of Ontarians live in the Great Lakes Basin, and three
out of four Ontario residents get their drinking water from the Great Lakes.
The basin also supports more than half of Canada's manufacturing output, a
quarter of the country's agriculture and $300 billion annually in trade
between Ontario and the U.S.
Because the Great Lakes are so important to Ontarians, the province has
taken action to manage and protect the lakes and all of Ontario's waters. In
1999 the Ontario government banned by regulation water transfers out of
Ontario's three major water basins - the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin,
the Nelson River Basin, and the Hudson Bay Basin. This ban was strengthened in
2007 with the passage of the Safeguarding and Sustaining Ontario's Water Act.
The act elevated Ontario's ban to legislation and extended it to water
transfers from one Great Lake watershed to another, with strictly regulated
But international action was needed to fully protect the Great Lakes. Our
shared border with the United States runs through four of the Great Lakes.
Water doesn't stop flowing because of a line on a map; water diverted from the
basin is a loss on both sides of the border.
The need for cross-border protection led the jurisdictions that share the
Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin to work together to protect this precious
natural resource. Eight Great Lakes states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan,
Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin) and the provinces of
Ontario and Quebec signed a good-faith agreement in 2005 called the Great
Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement. The
eight states also endorsed a companion interstate compact which mirrors the
good-faith agreement and turns its commitments into state and U.S. federal
The Great Lakes agreement and compact support Ontario's long-term plan to
work with other governments and partners to protect, restore and sustain the
Threats From Removals or Transfers of Water
Supplies of fresh water are already scarce in many parts of the world,
including parts of North America. Many areas that are likely to see decreases
in water supplies as a result of climate change are also areas where
population and water demand are rapidly increasing.
A variety of proposals for removals or transfers of water from the Great
Lakes have been put forward in the past, particularly over the last 30 years.
In an increasingly thirsty world, the likelihood is growing of further demands
for large-scale water diversions and precedent-setting bulk water removals and
North Americans are the biggest users of water in the world; on average,
each person consumes 380 litres of water a day.
Great Lakes Facts
The Great Lakes contain nearly 20 per cent of the world's fresh surface
water and 95 per cent of North America's fresh surface water supply.
The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin is the watershed of the Great
Lakes and the St. Lawrence River upstream from Trois-Rivières, Quebec. The
watershed includes all the areas in which surface water and groundwater drains
toward one of the Great Lakes or the St. Lawrence River. It covers about
767,000 square kilometres (295,000 square miles).
Only about one percent of the total volume of water in the Great Lakes is
renewed each year through rain or snow. The rest is a legacy of the melting
glaciers of the last Ice Age. Keeping the lakes at healthy levels is extremely
important for the environmental and economic health of the Great Lakes.
The lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands and underground waters of the basin
are a single, interconnected system. If evaporation, water flowing out of the
lakes and basin water withdrawals amount to more than the amount renewed each
year, then the amount of water in the lakes will decrease.
Climate change uncertainties pose an additional threat to the waters of
the Great Lakes Basin.
Managing the Great Lakes Basin
Protecting and managing the shared waters of the Great Lakes Basin
involves federal, state, provincial and municipal governments on both sides of
the U.S.-Canada border, as well as agencies such as the International Joint
Commission that are run jointly by the United States and Canada.
The Boundary Waters Treaty between the U.S. and Canada encompasses the
boundary waters of the Great Lakes, but not the lakes and rivers that flow
into them, or underground water. Furthermore, proposals for water uses or
diversions that will affect U.S.-Canada boundary waters only require approval
under the Boundary Waters Treaty if they affect the level or flow of the
The Great Lakes agreement and compact complement the protections provided
by the Boundary Waters Treaty and continue to recognize the authority of the
federal governments and the International Joint Commission.
Compact and Agreement Timeline
The premiers and governors of Ontario, Quebec and the eight Great Lakes
states signed a good-faith agreement, the Great Lakes Charter, which was
intended to protect and conserve the waters of the basin. Since then the 10
jurisdictions have followed the principles set out in the agreement, including
sharing information on water use and consulting each other on proposals for
major water uses.
Renewed concerns about proposals to export water in bulk led the
provinces and states to sign a supplementary agreement known as the Great
Lakes Charter Annex. It committed the 10 parties to develop more binding
protections for the waters of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin.
The eight states and two provinces signed a good-faith agreement - the
Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement -
and a binding compact among the eight states. Provinces and states cannot sign
binding treaties across international borders.
Canadian and U.S. federal governments and agencies and a wide range of
industries, environmental groups and First Nations and U.S. Tribes were
engaged throughout the negotiations. The good-faith agreement committed all
the jurisdictions to incorporate the terms of the agreement into their own
Ontario's Safeguarding and Sustaining Ontario's Water Act was passed,
enshrining in Ontario law the terms of the agreement. Quebec's National
Assembly tabled legislation that implements the agreement in Quebec law.
On July 9 the eight Great Lakes states completed ratification of the
companion Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact. On
September 23 the U.S. Congress approved the compact. The President signed the
legislation on October 3.
Terms of the Great Lakes Compact and Good-Faith Agreement
The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact and the
companion good-faith agreement with Ontario and Quebec provide strong
protections for Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin waters.
They are founded on the principles of precaution, ecosystem protection,
and recognition of cumulative impacts and climate change uncertainties.
By signing the good-faith agreement, the Great Lakes governors and
premiers created the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Water Resources Regional
Body, through which they are working together to manage and protect one of the
most important natural resources in North America.
The states and provinces have agreed to:
- Ban diversions of water out of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River
Basin with rare, strictly regulated exceptions and prohibit new or
increased transfers of water from one Great Lake watershed to another
unless strictly regulated criteria are met
- Strengthen water conservation and efficiency through programs in each
state and province
- Establish a strong new basin-wide environmental standard for managing
and regulating water uses across all states and provinces
- Build the information and science needed to support sound decision-
- Continue to recognize the authority of the federal governments and
the International Joint Commission under the Boundary Waters Treaty,
which remains unchanged
- Build regional collaboration, for example in the review of water
management, conservation and efficiency programs and the review of
significant proposals for water use.
The working group negotiating the compact and the good-faith agreement
sought the advice and input of key stakeholder groups through a regional
Advisory Committee. U.S. and Canadian federal governments and agencies, such
as the International Joint Commission and the Great Lakes Commission, were
consulted and kept informed. In Ontario, negotiators were advised by a panel
of key stakeholders and experts.
Throughout, the process has been assisted by the Council of Great Lakes
Governors, a partnership of the eight Great Lakes governors set up to tackle
common environmental and economic challenges. The premiers of Ontario and
Quebec are associate members of the council's board of directors.
Ivan Langrish, Minister's ontario.ca/natural-resources-news
Office, (416) 314-2212 Disponible en français
Barry Radford, Communications
Services Branch, (416) 314-2123
For further information:
For further information: Ivan Langrish, Minister's Office, (416)
314-2212; Barry Radford, Communications Services Branch, (416) 314-2123