Great Lakes area mayors and U.S. governors have reached an agreement when it comes to water diversion, saying quality of the lakes is paramount.

Members of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative (Cities Initiative) opposed a U.S.-based decision to divert up to 8.2 million gallons per day for the use by Waukesha, Wisconsin, a city of 70,000 whose water supply is contaminated.

The members dropped their challenge to the decision recently but secured an agreement to improve the review of similar applications in the future.

Chatham-Kent Mayor Randy Hope said the agreement to review and strengthen the process by which communities from outside the traditional Great Lakes area can divert water will help ensure that the resource is used in a way in which it will ensure its long-term sustainability.

Hope said the Great Lakes comprise more than 20 per cent of the world’s fresh water supply and depletion of the resource would bring the North American economy to a halt.

“This is not a backyard pool where you can simply fill it back up if it gets low,” he said. “We’re dealing with a huge and complex ecosystem. We intend to protect it from any exploitation or misuse.”

The agreement includes review of many aspects of the process for evaluating applications for diversion, including the public engagement process, public hearings in Canada and the United States and consideration of new information that becomes available during the process.

The Cities Initiative is a coalition of 131 U.S. and Canadian cities and mayors representing over 17 million people committed to the long term protection and restoration of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.