The binational Great Lakes Commission (GLC) called for U.S. and Canadian leadership to rebuild and modernize aging water infrastructure in the Great Lakes region. In a suite of comprehensive recommendations to both governments, the GLC argued that the time is right to invest in infrastructure that provides safe drinking water to more than 48 million people, transports 200 million tons of freight each year, and supports a $5 trillion economy in the eight-state, two province Great Lakes region.
Specific recommendations related to drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure include:
- supporting the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRF);
- funding and implementing new approaches for financing water infrastructure;
- promoting integrated water resource management; and
- supporting the use of green infrastructure to help communities manage stormwater.
Recent drinking water crises in Toledo, Ohio, and Flint, Michigan, have shined a light on the risks of aging and underfunded water infrastructure across the country. The majority of U.S. water systems are between 50 and 150 years old, and costs to maintain and update them are projected to rise steeply if action is deferred. Additionally, billions of gallons of sewage and stormwater are currently released into the Great Lakes each year from outdated and aging infrastructure. Investments are also needed for the critical Great Lakes maritime transportation system. The Department of Homeland Security has projected that an unscheduled shutdown of the Soo Locks would lead to a loss of 11 million jobs and a $1.1 trillion hit to the U.S. economy.
“Government at all levels and across both nations need to prioritize improvements to our region’s critical infrastructure systems,” said Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan. “The impact to our residents and our economies could be significant if we don’t start to take the existing and emerging problems more seriously. One example of a pending and crucial need is the construction of a new lock in the Soo Locks due to the increasing threat of significant, negative consequences to the economies in our regions and across both nations. The recommendations from the Great Lakes Commission should be considered as soon as possible.”
“Abundant, clean water, including Lake Superior, is one of Minnesota’s most precious natural assets,” said John Linc Stine, commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and vice chair of the Great Lakes Commission. “Protecting and promoting clean, safe water in the Great Lakes is critical for the health and enjoyment of future generations, and Minnesota’s Governor, Mark Dayton, has made water a top environmental priority for his administration by declaring a year of water action. As Minnesota is situated at the head of the Great Lakes, the GLC’s recommendations for our water infrastructure needs — especially drinking water and wastewater treatment systems — should be considered as soon as possible, and is an important water action for Minnesota.”
“The Great Lakes directly generate 1.5 million jobs and define our quality of life. Abundant fresh water gives the Great Lakes region a unique, competitive advantage to attract new industries and support growing cities. Failure to address our region’s aging water infrastructure puts this – and the health of our citizens – at risk,” said Tim Eder, executive director of the Great Lakes Commission. “Protecting our region’s freshwater resources and leveraging them as an economic asset is a longstanding, bipartisan priority, and the Great Lakes states and provinces stand ready to work with our federal governments, local communities and businesses to address our infrastructure needs.”
The GLC document includes recommendations for improving drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure; supporting commercial navigation infrastructure; and sustaining infrastructure for restoring and managing the Great Lakes. It was developed with input from leaders from the public, private and nonprofit sectors across the Great Lakes basin. Several of the GLC’s member states and provinces also have comprehensive recommendations for improving all types of infrastructure systems.
To access the full GLC infrastructure statement, click here. http://www.glc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/GLC-Water-Infrastructure-Priorities-for-the-Great-Lakes-030217.pdf