For immediate release: May 29, 2013  |  Download PDF
Tom Crane or Becky Pearson, or, office: 734-971-9135

Ann Arbor, Mich. According to 2011 water use data from the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin states and provinces, more than 44 billion gallons per day (BGD) are withdrawn for purposes such as public water supply, agricultural irrigation and industrial uses, among others. This data was released today in the Great Lakes Regional Water Use Report, which provides comparable water use information on withdrawals, diversions and consumptive uses, a requirement under the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact and the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement.

“Water is one of the region’s most precious resources, and there is a renewed commitment on the part of the Great Lakes governors and premiers to manage water resources wisely,” says Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, chair of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Water Resources Regional Body and Compact Council, which oversees agreement implementation. “Trends indicate that Great Lakes water use is relatively stable and is actually decreasing in some areas.”


The 44.1 BGD (nearly 167 billion liters per day) withdrawn from the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin excludes water withdrawn for generating hydroelectric power, which is considered an in-stream use. Hydroelectric water withdrawals represent more than 96 percent of the total withdrawals. Backing out hydrolectric water use more accurately reflects the actual water withdrawals by each jurisdiction within the basin as shown in the pie chart above. Of the 10 jurisdictions, Ontario withdraws the most water at 16.69 BGD (37%), followed by Michigan at 10.47 BGD (23%) and Wisconsin at 4.46 BGD (10%). The full report includes state and provincial breakdowns of water use by category: withdrawals, consumptive uses and inter- and intra-basin diversions.

The Great Lakes governors and the premiers of Ontario and Québec are committed to improving water use information in order to better understand the amount of water withdrawn and used within the basin and related impacts. In addition to this commitment, the governors and premiers are pursuing broader actions to manage and protect the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River basin by implementing the Compact and Agreement. The accords include a ban on new diversions of water from the basin (with limited exceptions), a consistent standard to review proposed uses of basin water, the collection of technical data to improve water resources decisionmaking, and implementation of water management, conservation and efficiency programs.

Annual water use reporting by the Great Lakes states and provinces began as a result of the Great Lakes Charter of 1985. The governors and premiers developed the Charter to assist the jurisdictions with Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River water resources planning and management. Under the Compact and the Agreement, the states and provinces have committed to developing consistent information and reports on water use for the public. They report annual water use information to a regional database repository, which is maintained by the Great Lakes Commission.

The 2011 water use report, along with past years’ reports, are available at Beginning in 2014, this website will add additional functionality to provide for online data queries and other new features.


The Great Lakes Commission, chaired by Kenneth G. Johnson, water division administrator at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, is an interstate compact agency established under state and U.S. federal law and dedicated to promoting a strong economy, healthy environment and high quality of life for the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region and its residents. The Commission consists of governors’ appointees, state legislators, and agency officials from its eight member states. Associate membership for Ontario and Québec was established through the signing of a “Declaration of Partnership.” The Commission maintains a formal Observer program involving U.S. and Canadian federal agencies, tribal authorities, binational agencies and other regional interests. The Commission offices are located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Learn more at