Tuesday, November 27, 2007

NWF Report On Climate Change and Great Lakes Water Resources

Nov 27: A new report by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) indicates that global warming’s impacts on the Great Lakes will likely be exacerbated unless inadequate regional water laws are strengthened to prevent water diversion. The new report, Climate Change and Great Lakes Water Resources, warns that a warming climate is likely to reduce Great Lakes water supply while increasing water demand within the region. Further, as other regions suffer from water shortages and increased demand for water resources, they may look to divert Great Lakes water "to quench their thirst." Against this backdrop, the report concludes that the existing legal framework will not be enough to protect the Great Lakes.

Report co-author Noah Hall, an environmental law professor at Wayne State University Law School in Detroit said, “The Great Lakes are facing the one-two punch of global warming and water diversion. We have known for many years that existing laws are inadequate to protect the Great Lakes from diversions and overuse. Now we know that climate change is certain to put additional stress and pressure on the Great Lakes. Prompt passage of the Great Lakes Compact will go a long way toward mitigating the impacts of global warming while safeguarding a resource that millions of people depend on for their economy and way of life.”

Co-author Bret Stuntz, an attorney and geologist in Michigan said, “This report is a wakeup call. The threats are severe, and the solution is clear: The Great Lakes Compact is perfect for managing 20 percent of the world’s fresh surface water during a time of change in the region and across the United States.” NWF said the report comes as water shortages around the United States are increasing due to both insufficient water conservation policy and drought conditions, and as the specter of water diversion out of the Great Lakes has propelled the issue into the 2008 Presidential campaign.

Molly Flanagan, water program manager for the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes office said, “Battles over water are not science fiction. They are occurring now in the United States and around the globe and they will only get worse. The Great Lakes region has an opportunity to be a leader in managing and protecting our water resources and to set an example for the rest of the country. We cannot afford to sit back and allow others to decide the fate of our Lakes. Now is the time to close the door on future water diversions and put our house in order by passing the Great Lakes Compact.”

The report synthesizes the latest peer-reviewed science on global warming impacts to the Great Lakes and finds that warming temperatures will likely lower lake levels, help invasive species take hold, and lead to more sewer overflows. It examines current legal framework for protecting the Great Lakes and concludes that they are uniformly inadequate. The report recommends enactment of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact (Great Lakes Compact), as an important step in improving Great Lakes water resource policy to meet the challenge of climate change. Once approved by each of the eight Great Lakes state legislatures and consented to by the U.S. Congress, the Great Lakes Compact will become legally binding and provide for joint management and increased protections for the Great Lakes.

Thus far, Minnesota and Illinois have adopted the Compact. The New York Assembly and Senate have passed the Compact and the legislation awaits concurrence from the Assembly which may happen yet this year. NWF says that legislation is moving forward in Indiana, Pennsylvania and Michigan and positive momentum for the Compact is building in each of the Great Lakes states.

Access a release from NWF that includes quotes from various Great Lakes state conservation groups (click here). Access the complete 44-page report (click here). Access the Council of Great Lakes Governors website on Compact Implementation Status for further details (click here). Access the WIMS new Great Lakes Environment Blog for additional information (click here).