March 22nd is World Water Day!

Media Advisory, March 22, 2013


March 22, 2013

The International Year of Water Cooperation:
Restore Our Water International aims to make a global issue local

World Water Day is held annually on March 22rd as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. 2013 has been declared as the United Nations International Year of Water Cooperation.

Restore Our Water International (ROWI) is a non-profit organization concerned with the unfolding crisis of rapidly declining water levels in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence basin. Mary Muter, Sierra Club’s Great Lakes Section Chair and ROWI Spokesperson, is extremely knowledgeable about Great Lakes issues and has worked proactively with a broad coalition of organizations and individuals to address environmental impacts.


WHAT: Commentary on UN World Water Day and Impacts on the Great Lakes

WHEN: Friday, March 22, 2013

WHO: Mary Muter, Sierra Club’s Great Lakes Section chair and ROWI Spokesperson, 905-833-2020,


World Water Day

  • World Water Day is held annually as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.
  • World Water Day (March 22nd) was created at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) and a way to internationally recognize and celebrate the world’s freshwater.
  • In December 2010, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2013 as the United Nations International Year of Water Cooperation.
  • The Great Lakes contain 20% of the world’s freshwater resources but they are finite - they’re the remnants of a glacial deposit from the last ice age. Only 1% of the water is a renewable resource (i.e. replaced by precipitation and runoff) yet the International Joint Commission is suggesting that a 5.8% increase in Lake Huron outflow to the St. Clair River is acceptable and something we should “adapt to”. This is wrong as the outflow is a significant contributing factor to the unprecedented low water levels we are witnessing on Lakes Michigan Huron and in Georgian Bay.

2013 International Year of Water Cooperation

  • In designating 2013 as the UN International Year of Water Cooperation, the UNGA recognizes that cooperation is essential to strike a balance between the different needs and priorities and share this precious resource equitably.
  • Good management of water is especially challenging due to its unique characteristic and the complexity of the hydrological cycle. Small changes can produce a multiplicity of unintended impacts and the St. Clair River is a perfect example. Human actions including dredging, sand and gravel mining and hardened shorelines have drastically altered the St. Clair River led to erosion of exposed sediments. [Note: There is an (uncompleted) outstanding agreement between Canada and the U.S. that requires placement of compensating submersible sills as a condition of the 1962 Seaway dredging].
  • Lakes Michigan and Huron have hovered close to record low levels for 14 years and just recently set a new record low. These large bodies of water remain 27 inches below their long term average (while Lakes Erie and Ontario - under a similar climate -- are close to their long term averages).
  • Rapid urbanization, pollution and climate change threaten the Great Lakes resources while demands for water are increasing in order to satisfy food production, energy, industrial and domestic needs.

Why Water Cooperation?

  • The Great Lakes cross political boundaries and international cooperation is necessary to manage the resource to ensure different (and sometimes conflicting/competing) needs are met, and claims and cultures are respected.
  • If stakeholders involved in water management -- including the International Joint Commission -- do not cooperate, the ‘cooperation chain’ is broken and water resources will not be managed in the most efficient and effective way, with adverse effects on human lives and the economy.
  • Lakes Michigan/Huron/Georgian Bay water levels can be restored gradually and responsibly with minimal 2-3 inch temporary downstream impact. Canada and the United States have an outstanding agreement (since 1962) that compensation sills would be installed in the St. Clair River as a condition of Seaway navigation dredging to maintain water levels. It is high time the terms of that agreement were finally met.
  • When water resources are cooperatively shared and managed, peace, prosperity and sustainable development are much more likely to be achieved.


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