Climate Change and Great Lakes Water Resources: Avoiding Future Conflicts with Conservation

Hamline Law Review, Vol. 31, p. 641, 2008

Wayne State University Law School Research Paper No. 08-17

37 Pages Posted: 15 Apr 2008 Last revised: 25 Jun 2013

See all articles by Noah D. Hall

Noah D. Hall

Wayne State University Law School

Bret B. Stuntz

Independent

Date Written: 2008

Abstract

Despite the complexities of climatology, certain consistent themes emerge with implications for water availability: as the world gets warmer, it will experience increased regional variability in precipitation, more frequent heavy precipitation events, becoming more susceptible to drought. This article focuses on how climate change will impact Great Lakes water resources. It explores what a changing climate will mean for the Great Lakes, including possible lowering of lake levels, impacts on fisheries and wildlife, changes in Great Lakes shorelines, and reduction of groundwater supplies. Climate change will also reduce water supplies in other parts of the country, creating increased pressure to divert Great Lakes water to other regions. As the Great Lakes and other regions struggle with loss of water supplies, demand for water is expected to increase unless water conservation laws and policies are adopted. Unfortunately, current laws and policies intended to protect Great Lakes water resources from diversions and overuse within the basin are not up to the new challenges posed by climate change. The region can better protect and manage Great Lakes water resources in a future of climate change by adopting new water resource policies that (1) emphasize water conservation as water becomes more scarce and valuable; (2) protect aquatic habitat for fisheries and wildlife in changing conditions; (3) provide strong legal protections against diversions of Great Lakes water to other regions; and (4) create regional governance institutions that can help adaptively manage water resources as new scientific information becomes available. The article concludes by examining how the proposed Great Lakes Compact gives the region an opportunity to make these improvements in water resource policy and better protect the Great Lakes from the pressures of climate change.

Keywords: great lakes, water law, water resources, climate change, adaptation, water diversions, adaptive management

JEL Classification: K32, Q25

Suggested Citation

Hall, Noah D. and Stuntz, Bret B., Climate Change and Great Lakes Water Resources: Avoiding Future Conflicts with Conservation (2008). Hamline Law Review, Vol. 31, p. 641, 2008, Wayne State University Law School Research Paper No. 08-17, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1120348

Noah D. Hall (Contact Author)

Wayne State University Law School ( email )

471 Palmer
Detroit, MI 48202
United States

Bret B. Stuntz

Independent ( email )

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