Water in the Great Lakes was preserved this week by the U.S. House of Representatives when it passed the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact, or Annex 2001, by a vote of 309 to 25. Earlier this year, the U.S. Senate approved the measure, which now is headed into a likely signing by President Bush.
The Compact means that the United States has banned states outside the Great Lakes region, or in other countries, from tapping into the lakes and thus depleting or doing long-term damage to the natural environment and economy over time.
From the beginning, the Compact permitted bottled water companies to use the Great Lakes water basin and its nearby aquifers to bottle water in containers of 5 gallons or less. As the Compact went before Congress, certain activist groups lobbied hard at the last minute for the use of water for bottling to be reclassified as a diversion, thus preventing any future products containing water from leaving the region. This could have affected many products in addition to bottled water, which is a product like any other that should be permitted to be sold outside the Great Lakes basin.
Overall, Annex 2001 represents a big win for consumers and water bottlers, as several smaller, family-run operations might have been put out of business had the Compact included language that prevented the industry from using the lakes or the water basin around them. Had the activists prevailed, it would have only hurt consumers by regulating their access to a safe, healthy beverage choice.
The win was in part thanks to the efforts of International Bottled Water Association’s members, who flooded their elected officials with more than 250 letters concerning Annex 2001, asking lawmakers to support the industry.
For more information on Annex 2001, click here.