Beginning in 2005, water availability and use were assessed for the U.S. part of the Great Lakes Basin through the Great Lakes Basin Pilot of a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) national assessment of water availability and use. The goals of a national assessment of water availability and use are to clarify our understanding of water-availability status and trends and improve our ability to forecast the balance between water supply and demand for future economic and environmental uses. This report outlines possible approaches for full-scale implementation of such an assessment. As such, the focus of this study was on collecting, compiling, and analyzing a wide variety of data to define the storage and dynamics of water resources and quantify the human demands on water in the Great Lakes region.
The study focused on multiple spatial and temporal scales to highlight not only the abundant regional availability of water but also the potential for local shortages or conflicts over water. Regional studies provided a framework for understanding water resources in the basin. Subregional studies directed attention to varied aspects of the water-resources system that would have been difficult to assess for the whole region because of either data limitations or time limitations for the project. The study of local issues and concerns was motivated by regional discussions that led to recent legislative action between the Great Lakes States and regional cooperation with the Canadian Great Lakes Provinces. The multiscale nature of the study findings challenges water-resource managers and the public to think about regional water resources in an integrated way and to understand how future changes to the system-driven by human uses, climate variability, or land-use change-may be accommodated by informed water-resources management.