Last year, the city of Waukesha in Wisconsin had asked the Great Lake states for permission to divert water from Lake Michigan because its own aquifer is running low and the water is contaminated with high levels of naturally occurring cancer-causing radium.
A panel representing governors of the eight states adjoining the Great Lakes unanimously approved a proposal from Waukesha, which is under a court order to find a solution to the radium contamination of its groundwater wells. The city says the project will cost over $200 million for engineering studies, pipelines and other infrastructure.
Waukesha is only 27 kilometres from the lake but just outside the Great Lakes watershed. That required the city of about 72,000 to get special permission under the compact, which prohibits most diversions of water across the watershed boundary.
The Mayor of Leamington, Ont. is calling the recently-approved plan to draw water from Lake Michigan the "wrong decision." He immediately took to Twitter to voice his discontent, calling the recent decision "the end of the Great Lakes as we know them."
"This should not be allowed," Paterson told CBC News. "I'm really disappointed it happened. That was unexpected. I actually thought the governor of Michigan was going to side with us. He even bailed."
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, defended his in-favour vote, arguing the initiative is "the best way to conserve" Lake Michigan.
Over the past few months Ontario officials have expressed a "number of concerns" with the proposal, prompting the city to revise its submission.
"We appreciate the scaling back of this proposal in part thanks to pressure from Ontario," Bob Duncanson, executive director of Georgian Bay Association, a group representing 20 cottage associations, told the Toronto Star.
"But we still feel that it sets a bad precedent for protection of the finite water resources in the Great Lakes ... despite the fact they look like large bodies of water, they don’t replenish easily."
Under the agreement, Waukesha must return 100 percent of the water it uses as treated effluent piped to the Root River, a Lake Michigan tributary.
Waukesha must develop filter pharmaceuticals and personal care products from the return water flow, conduct environmental monitoring and document the daily, monthly and annual water withdraw and and return amounts.
Each Great Lakes state can independently conduct audits to inspect Waukesha's records and the agreement can be withdrawn by the other states at any point if conditions of the agreement are violated.
"Should this decision stand uncontested, it could set a precendent that will lead to drastic consquences for the entire Great Lakes basin."