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Great Lakes Compact and diversions

The Great Lakes Compact is a formal agreement between the Great Lakes states which details how the states will work together to manage and protect the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin. A parallel agreement (the Sustainable Water Resources Agreement) includes Ontario and Québec, the two Canadian provinces that border the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway. Through these agreements, the states and provinces collectively manage Great Lakes water.

As part of the Great Lakes Compact, Wisconsin registers water withdrawals, receives and analyzes water use reports, requires water use permits, implements a conservation program and manages Great Lakes diversions. The DNR is currently drafting rules related to managing diversions and water supply service area planning.


The Great Lakes Compact became effective on Dec. 8, 2008, after final consent from the U.S. Congress [PDF exit DNR]. This date began the ban on diversions of water out of the basin, with limited exceptions. To implement the compact, Wisconsin passed implementing legislation [PDF exit DNR] in 2008 and has an active management program.

Two regional organizations oversee the implementation of the compact and the parallel agreement with the provinces.

Great Lakes diversion applications and approvals

Several landowners and public water supply systems transferred water from the Great Lakes basin to the Mississippi River basin prior to 2008 (the year the Great Lakes Compact and Agreement were ratified). The DNR issued approvals to these entities and recognize them as “pre-existing” diversions.”

However, the Great Lakes Compact and Agreement ban diversions of Great Lakes water with limited exceptions. These exceptions allow a "straddling community" or "community in a straddling county" to submit an application to the DNR to divert water (i.e., to move water out of the Great Lakes Basin).

  • Straddling community - These communities straddle the Great Lakes Basin boundary. These are communities that lie partly within the Great Lakes Basin and partly outside of the Great Lakes Basin.
  • Community in a straddling county - These communities are wholly outside of the Great Lakes Basin, but located in a county that straddles the Great Lakes Basin boundary. The City of Waukesha’s diversion approval is an example of a ‘community in a straddling county’ diversion.

Wisconsin’s pre-existing and existing diversion approvals are as follows:

Name of Diversion County Approved Diversion Volume (gallons per day) Type of Diversion*
Village of Bristol Kenosha 1,380,000 Pre-existing
City of Brookfield Waukesha 1,944,000 Pre-existing
K&K Farms, Inc. Waushara 783,360 Pre-existing
City of Kenosha Kenosha 2,540,000 Pre-existing
Lepak Portage 123,600 Pre-existing
Village of Menomonee Falls Waukesha 3,217,200 Pre-existing
City of New Berlin Waukesha 2,142,000 Straddling Community
Village of Pardeeville Columbia 347,600 Pre-existing
Village of Pleasant Prairie Kenosha 10,690,000 Pre-existing
City of Portage Columbia 9,580,000 Pre-existing
City of Racine Racine 7,000,000 Straddling Community
Village of Somers Kenosha 1,200,000 Straddling Community
Southern Wisconsin Center Racine 836,000 Pre-existing
City of Waukesha Waukesha 8,200,000 Community in a Straddling County
Shanrod Farms, LLC Racine 4,000 Pre-existing
Kettle Hills Golf Course Washington 112,034 Pre-existing

* Pre-existing diversion means an interbasin transfer approved under s. 281.344(3m) and (4), Wis. Stats., of water from the Great Lakes basin into a watershed outside of the Great Lakes basin that existed prior to the ratification of the Great Lakes Compact on December 8, 2008.

This table summarizes diversion application requirements for a "straddling community" or "community in a straddling county."


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