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Protecting Great Lakes Freshwater

A marina on Mackinac Island, with boats docked along the entire shore
Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy

Protecting Great Lakes Freshwater

In 2005, the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers signed the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement (Agreement). At the same time, the Governors endorsed the companion Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact (Compact) which became law in 2008. The Compact is an agreement between the states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The Agreement includes the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. The Compact and Agreement detail how the states and provinces act together to protect, conserve, restore, improve, and effectively manage the waters and water-dependent natural resources of the Great Lakes Basin.

The Compact requires that the states regulate any large quantity withdrawal, which is defined as any water withdrawal greater than 100,000 gallons per day. In addition, the Compact bans diversions of water outside the Great Lakes basin, with limited exceptions for straddling communities and communities within straddling counties that meet strict criteria.

The Office of the Great Lakes (OGL) and the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) Water Resources Division’s (WRD) Water Use Program staff work with regional, state, and local partners to support sustainable Great Lakes water use. The OGL participates in regular Great Lakes | St. Lawrence River Basin - Water Resources Council meetings and the Great Lakes | St. Lawrence River - Water Resources Regional Body meetings to uphold the highest standards to protect and sustain Great Lakes freshwater resources.

2024 Draft Five-Year Review – Opportunity for Public Comments

The Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy is accepting comments between Monday, July 15, 2024, and Thursday, August 29, 2024, on the State of Michigan - Draft Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact Five-Year Program Review Report. The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact (Compact) and the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement (Agreement) provide for regular review of each jurisdiction’s water management and water conservation and efficiency programs for compliance with the Compact and Agreement.

The Draft Five-Year Program Review outlines the state of Michigan’s implementation and status of its Water Management Program and Water Conservation and Efficiency Program pursuant to the Compact and the Agreement. 

Read the State of Michigan - Draft Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact Five-Year Program Review Report (PDF)

Written comments on the draft 2024 program review must be submitted by Thursday, August 29, 2024, 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time, to Simon Bélisle at BelisleS@Michigan.gov or Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, Executive Division, P.O. Box 30473, Lansing, Michigan 48909-7973. 

Individuals needing language assistance or accommodations for effective participation should contact Simon Bélisle at 517-331-6390 by August 8, 2024, to request language, mobility, visual, hearing, translation, and/or other assistance.

EGLE does not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, religion, age, national origin, color, marital status, disability, political beliefs, height, weight, genetic information, or sexual orientation in the administration of any of its programs or activities, and prohibits intimidation and retaliation, as required by applicable laws and regulations.

Regional, National, and Binational Information 

Great Lakes Diversions

Shoreline along Lake Michigan, with sand dunes in the distance and sand/pebbles in the foreground

The Compact prohibits new or increased diversions of water from the Great Lakes to areas outside the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin with provisions for the small number of straddling communities and those within straddling counties, which must first meet strict criteria to obtain approval. These criteria include conservation efforts, allotted water volume, and a 100 percent return flow requirement. The OGL and Michigan Water Use Program participate in regular Compact Council and Regional Body meetings and evaluate proposed water diversion applications.

A view of the Great Lakes from SeaWiFS

Great Lakes Water Use Data

Michigan and the other states and provinces in the Great Lakes Region have enacted laws that require major water users to report water usage within the Great Lakes Basin. This information provides an environmental baseline for managing water resources in a more integrated manner and strengthens the legal basis for opposing unwarranted diversions of Great Lakes water to other regions of the country.

Water use data for each of the Great Lakes Basin states and provinces is available in the Great Lakes Regional Water Use Database that is provided and maintained by the Great Lakes Commission.

Michigan Water Use Program

Michigan and the other Great Lakes states and provinces have each enacted laws that regulate water uses within the Great Lakes Basin. The laws are in accordance with the Great Lakes-St.Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact and a parallel international Agreement  to manage the groundwater and surface water resources within the Great Lakes Basin, and to prohibit diversions outside the Basin. The Michigan Water Use Program is responsible for registering large quantity withdrawals, collecting annual water use data, making determinations on the potential impacts to water resources as a result of proposed withdrawals, and processing water withdrawal permits. The information managed by the Water Use Program provides an environmental baseline for managing water resources in an integrated manner and strengthens the legal basis for opposing unwarranted diversions of Great Lakes water. Michigan also established a voluntary Water Conservation and Efficiency Program required under the Compact.

The program is also advised by an external advisory group called the Water Use Advisory Council that collaboratively studies, evaluates, and provides advice regarding Michigan’s water management, conservation and efficiency programs. It also assists the agencies on technical issues, implementation, and monitoring overall progress of Michigan’s Water Use Program.

To ensure Michigan continues to fulfill our commitment under the Compact, EGLE submits to the Compact Council a Water Conservation and Efficiency Report annually and a Water Management Program Report every five years. 

Michigan.gov/WaterUse

Michigan Water Conservation and Efficiency Goals and Objectives

Goals

  1. Ensuring improvement of the waters and water dependent natural resources
  2. Protecting and restoring the hydrologic and ecosystem integrity of the Basin;
  3. Retaining the quantity of surface water and groundwater in the Basin;
  4. Ensuring sustainable use of waters of the Basin; and,
  5. Promoting the efficiency of use and reducing losses and waste of water. 

Objectives

    • The programs will be adaptive, goal-based, accountable, and measurable.
    • Continue to develop and implement programs openly and collaboratively, with local stakeholders, Tribes and First Nations, governments and the public.
    • Prepare and maintain long-term water demand forecasts.
    • Develop long-term strategies that incorporate water conservation and efficient water use practices.
    • Review and build upon existing planning efforts by considering practices and experiences from other jurisdictions.
    • Maximize water use efficiency and minimize waste of water.
    • Promote appropriate innovative technology for water reuse.
    • Conserve and manage existing water supplies to prevent or delay the demand for and development of additional supplies.
    • Provide incentives to encourage efficient water use and conservation.
    • Consider water conservation and efficiency in the review of proposed new or increased uses.
    • Promote investment in and maintenance of efficient water infrastructure.
    • Improve the measurement and evaluation of water conservation and water use efficiency.
    • Encourage measures to monitor, account for, and minimize water loss.
    • Track and report program progress and effectiveness.
    • Encourage the identification and sharing of innovative management practices and state of the art technologies.
    • Encourage research, development, and implementation of water use and efficiency and water conservation technologies.
    • Seek a greater understanding of traditional knowledge and practices of Basin First Nations and Tribes.
    • Strengthen scientific understanding of the linkages between water conservation practices and ecological responses.
    • Ensure equitable public access to water conservation and efficiency tools and information.
    • Inform, educate, and increase awareness regarding water use, conservation, and efficiency and the importance of water.
    • Promote the cost-saving aspect of water conservation and efficiency for both short and long-term economic sustainability.
    • Share conservation and efficiency experiences, including successes and lessons learned across the Basin.
    • Enhance and contribute to regional information sharing.
    • Encourage and increase training opportunities in collaboration with professional or other organizations to increase water conservation and efficiency practices and technological applications.
    • Ensure that conservation programs are transparent and that information is readily available.
    • Aid in the development and dissemination of sector-based best management practices and results achieved.
    • Seek opportunities for the sharing of traditional knowledge and practices of Basin First Nations and Tribes.