In the Washington Watch column in the May 2009 issue of BioScience, Adrienne Froelich Sponberg, reports on significant water policy developments.

An excerpt from the article follows, but the complete article (along with prior Washington Watch columns) may be viewed for free at

While all eyes were on the presidential election last fall, the US Congress quickly—and rather unceremoniously—approved legislation that will shape the face of US water policy for years to come. On 3 October, then President George Bush signed into law the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact (S.J. Res. 45). Although federal passage was swift, the compact itself was nearly a decade in the making, and it represents significant progress in how the Great Lakes are managed. In turn, the compact sets the stage for the future of water policy in the United States.

Accounting for 84 percent of the surface freshwater in North America, the Laurentian Great Lakes represent one-fifth of the world’s freshwater supply. Management of the lakes, with their more than 17,000 kilometers of shoreline, has always been complex. Two countries, eight US states, two Canadian provinces, 40 tribal nations, and numerous metropolitan areas, counties, and local governments in the Great Lakes basin share governance of the lakes. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that within the US federal government alone, 10 agencies administer 140 programs related to the lakes.

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