Awareness of this compact could save time and money if addressed early.
by Kathleen McCabe
November 11, 2019

The Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of 1994, deals with the preservation of the Great Lakes resource. The additions made to the act in 2009 introduced the requirement for registration and permitting for large quantity water withdrawals (LQW) within the Great Lakes region. For ease of understanding to prepare owners, designers and contractors for the requirements dictated within Part 327 and Act 451, here are requirements for registration and permitting.

Prior to breaking ground on a new project, one of the steps involved is determining and completing all the necessary permits per federal, state and local regulations. In the Great Lakes region, including Michigan and neighboring states, one regulation that is not well known—but is gaining attention—is water withdrawal.

Water is a valuable resource and with the shortages over the last few years, attention is shifting to the Great Lakes in the St. Lawrence basin region, one of the most colossal freshwater systems in the world.

The five Great Lakes contain about 6 quadrillion gallons of fresh water, amounting to 84 percent of North America’s freshwater, and 21 percent of the world’s freshwater. Growing worldwide demand on freshwater threatens this supply, warranting its protection.

electrical pumping systemImage 1. Electrical pumping system set up for gravel pit/quarry dewatering (Images courtesy of Global Pump)

States bordering the Great Lakes—including Michigan, New York, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania—acknowledged this concern and came together to create the Great Lakes Region Compact. On Dec. 8, 2008, this compact, specifically the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Agreement, was signed. It is a legally binding agreement between all eight Great Lake states (or “Council”) to protect water quantity by banning large-scale diversions and promoting water conservation. Though not legally binding, but morally compelling, the compact also gained international support from the Great Lake-bordering Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario.

The compact places a ban on new or increased diversions and instructs each state, at minimum, to adopt and implement measures for new/increased diversions, manage and regulate exceptions, and manage and regulate withdrawal and consumptive uses along with water use reporting. The data can then be assessed by the council to gain an improved understanding of the individual and cumulative impacts of withdrawals from various locations and water sources on the basin ecosystem; to more accurately gauge basin water levels; to improve scientific understanding of the waters of the basin; and mitigate potential overdraws that can negatively impact the basin as a whole.

waterway diversion pumping systemImage 2. 200 cfs Waterway (Creek) Diversion Pumping System to allow for pipeline crossing

Who Does This Impact?

It impacts “…any person who withdraws water in an amount of 100,000 gallons per day or greater average in a 30-day period (including consumptive uses) from all sources, or diverts water of any amount, shall register the withdrawal or diversion by a date set by the council unless the person has previously registered in accordance with an existing state program.”

Water means ground or surface water contained within the basin. The basin (or watershed) is an area that commonly collects and drains off into a common outlet or body of water.

In reference to this compact, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin means the watershed of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River.

Withdrawal is defined as a means of taking water from surface water or groundwater. This also includes:

  • Diversions, which is defined as a transfer of water from the basin into another watershed, or from the watershed of one of the Great Lakes into that of another (subbasins) by any means of transfer.
  • Consumptive use, the portion of water withdrawn or withheld from the basin that is lost or otherwise not returned to the basin due to evaporation, incorporation into products, or other processes (i.e. waters used for irrigation, dust control, mining applications).

Though it may seem that the original intent of the compact was to target large quantity withdrawals for consumptive use, or uses that may compromise quality in commercially large quantities (i.e. bottling water facilities, irrigation, municipal water intake, nuclear plants, etc.), any water withdrawal—groundwater and surface alike—is required to abide by this compact. By this blanket of coverage, construction (or temporary) operations involving water such as dewatering, waterway diversions or even pump downs of water bodies, has been implicated.

Primary responsibility falls to the property owner and is the one required to complete these registrations, permits and/or reports, though it is not uncommon in the construction industry to see such responsibilities passed through contracts to consultants or contractors.

General information required on the permits/registrations includes: