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Great Lakes Compact

The Great Lakes Compact is a formal agreement between the Great Lakes states. A parallel agreement includes the two Canadian provinces that border the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway. In these agreements, the states and provinces agree to manage the water in the Great Lakes watershed collectively. The agreements also ban Great Lakes water from being "diverted," or piped out of the basin with a few limited and strictly regulated exceptions.

Background

Background

The Great Lakes Compact became effective on December 8, 2008, after final consent from the U.S. Congress [PDF]. This date began the ban on diversions of water out of the basin. It also started the five-year clock for each of the Great Lakes states to develop a water management program with the elements required by the compact. Wisconsin passed implementing legislation [PDF exit DNR] for the compact in 2008 and has its required management program fully in place.

Two regional organizations oversee the implementation of the compact and the parallel agreement with the provinces.

Timeline

Timeline

Compact effective – December 8, 2008

The Great Lakes Compact became effective in the eight Great Lake states. This date started the five-year clock for states to implement their water management programs. It also began the ban on diversion of water out of the Great Lakes basin.

Submit grandfathered water use – December 8, 2009

The states were required to submit their "baseline water withdrawals" to the Compact Council. Part of the compact allows existing users to grandfather their current water use as of December 8, 2008. This grandfathering occurs by defining a "baseline" for each water user. State water management programs will then apply to new users or increases in water use over this grandfathered "baseline" amount.

Registration and reporting – December 2010

Wisconsin’s implementing legislation calls for statewide registration of all water uses – groundwater and surface water – and annual reporting of the amount withdrawn. The requirement to register and report water use is dependent on how much is actually withdrawn. Online registration has been available since 2011.

State water use permits issued – December 8, 2011

General and individual permits have been issued to all water users in the Great Lakes Basin. These permits establish the amount of water the user can withdraw, the requirements for water conservation and the requirements for monitoring and reporting that water use.

Statewide water use report – June 2016

Wisconsin’s compact implementing legislation calls for a statewide water use report to identify trends in water use by sub basin, potential areas with water supply problems and options for sustainability. Wisconsin DNR produces an annual water use report and provides water use data through a map dataviewer and a searchable online data portal.

Water supply service area plan – December 2025

Wisconsin’s compact implementing legislation calls for all communities with populations over 10,000 to have an approved water supply service area plan by the end of 2025.

Contacts

Contacts

For questions related to Wisconsin's implementation of the Great Lakes Compact, including questions on rule drafts, registration and reporting, water conservation and efficiency and diversion applications, contact:

Adam Freihoefer
Drinking Water & Groundwater Program
Water use section chief
608-267-7638

For questions related to Wisconsin's participation in the Great Lakes Basin Regional Implementation of the Great Lakes Compact, contact:

Shaili Pfeiffer
Drinking Water & Groundwater Program
Water use section
608-267-7630

Additional information

Additional information

beachcombers

Diversion

Great Lakes diversion

The Great Lakes Compact and Agreement ban diversions of Great Lakes water with limited exceptions. These exceptions allow a "straddling community" or "community in a straddling county" to apply to divert water (i.e., to move water out of the Great Lakes basin).

  • "Straddling community" - These communities straddle the Great Lakes basin boundary. These are communities that lie partly within the Great Lakes basin and partly outside of the Great Lakes basin. An example of this type of community is New Berlin, Wisconsin.
  • "Community in a straddling county" – These communities are wholly outside of the Great Lakes basin, but located in a county that straddles the Great Lakes basin boundary. An example of this type of community is Waukesha, Wisconsin.

The table below summarizes diversion application requirements for a "straddling community" or "community in a straddling county."

Wisconsin and Great Lakes Compact requirements specified for a diversion approval Application Type
Straddling Community Straddling County
Application must be from a public water supply system Yes Yes
Diversion for public water supply purposes Yes Yes
All water returned less an allowance for consumptive use Yes Yes
The water will be treated to meet applicable permit requirements and to prevent the introduction of invasive species to the Great Lakes basin. Yes Yes
Maximizes Great Lakes water returned to Great Lakes basin and minimizes out of basin water returned Yes Yes
Requires a water conservation plan Yes Yes
Requires a water supply service area plan Yes
(see footnote 1)
Yes
Proposal meets Great Lakes Compact exception standard No
(see footnote 2)
Yes
Community without adequate supply of potable water No Yes
No reasonable water supply alternative including water conservation No Yes
The proposal will not endanger the integrity of the Great Lakes basin and will have no significant adverse impacts on the Great Lakes No Yes
The proposal undergoes regional review No
(see footnote 3)
Yes
DNR conducts and publishes a formal technical review No
(see footnote 4)
Yes
The proposal requires approval by the Great Lakes Compact Council No Yes
Footnotes
  1. Unless the proposal is to provide water to a straddling community that includes an electronics and information technology manufacturing zone.
  2. Unless the diversion requires a new or increased withdrawal of Great Lakes water
  3. Unless the diversion requires a new or increased withdrawal of Great Lakes water and the diversion will result in a consumptive use averaging 5 million gallons a day or more in any 90 day period.
  4. Unless proposal requires regional review.
Last revised: Monday January 29 2018