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BACKGROUNDER

Final Report on the Use, Diversion and Exports of Great Lakes Water

On February 10, 1999, the United States and Canadian federal governments asked the IJC to examine and report on the consumption, diversion and removal of waters along the common border, including removals in bulk for export.

The request from governments came in the wake of proposals to export water overseas from Canada, and litigation involving a scheme to export of water from Canada to the United States. Both governments are concerned that existing management principles and conservation measures may be inadequate to ensure future sustainable use of shared waters.

The need to review the management and use of transboundary water resources was raised by the IJC in a 1997 report entitled The IJC and the 21st Century. The IJC said such a review was needed to ensure that water and related resources are managed in a rational, consistent and anticipatory way to prevent transboundary disputes. In their letters of reference to the IJC for this new investigation, the governments repeated the concern that future proposals to use, divert and remove greater amounts of such waters can be expected.

The request from the governments asked the IJC to examine, report upon and provide recommendations on the following matters which may have effects on levels and flows of water within transboundary basins and shared aquifers:

  1. Existing and potential consumptive uses of water;
  2. Existing and potential diversions of water in and out of the transboundary basins, including withdrawals of water for export;
  3. The cumulative effects of existing and potential diversions and removals of water, including removals in bulk for export;
  4. The current laws and policies as may affect the sustainability of the water resources in boundary and transboundary basins.

The governments asked the IJC to build on its experience, notably its study of Great Lakes diversions and consumptive uses that concluded in 1985, and to submit interim recommendations for the protection of Great Lakes waters within six months of receipt of the Reference. The Interim Report was issued on August 10, 1999. A final report with recommendations on the broader issue of U.S.-Canada shared waters was requested within six months of the interim recommendations.

More information, including the full text of the letter of reference, may be found on the Commission's web site, at www.ijc.org.

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