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:
- Existing and potential consumptive uses of water;
- Existing and potential diversions of water in and out of the transboundary basins,
including withdrawals of water for export;
- The cumulative effects of existing and potential diversions and removals of water,
including removals in bulk for export;
- 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
More information, including the full text of the letter of reference, may be found on the
Commission's web site, at www.ijc.org.