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Renegotiation of the 1987 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement: From Confusion to Promise

Molecular Diversity Preservation International
Publication Date
  • Shared Water
  • Sustainable Management Approaches
  • Public Engagement
  • Great Lakes
  • Ecosystem Approach
  • Biology
  • Ecology
  • Linguistics


For nearly four decades, the Great Lakes regime has invoked the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement as the mechanism for binational cooperation on programs and policies. Many advances in water quality have led to unquestionable improvements in ecosystem quality, habitat and biodiversity, and water infrastructure. Still, Great Lakes scientists have issued compelling evidence that the ecological health of the basin ecosystem is at significant risk. In 2012, the Agreement will be revised for the first time in 25 years. The degree of engagement in a future Agreement, including scope, issues of significant importance, governance and collaboration will hinge on a thorough analytical process, so far seemingly absent, coupled with real consultation, so far marginally evident. Renegotiating the Agreement to generate a revitalized and sustainable future mandates that science inform contemporary public policy, and that inclusive discourse and public engagement be integral through the process. Many of these steps are still absent, and the analysis presented here strongly suggests that the constituents of the Great Lakes regime voice their views critically, emphatically, and often. If the negotiators listen, we can collectively make the Lakes Great.

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