As is apparent by the title of the Study, the central issue facing Lake Superior is an uncertainty as to future water levels thanks to experienced and anticipated changes to the climate. In order to better understand these changes and their effects on stakeholders, the Study undertook an analysis of hydroclimatic conditions. In conducting this hydroclimatic analysis the Study aimed to gain a deeper understanding of precipitation and evaporation in the Great Lakes, examine the accuracy of historical data, and utilize new modelling to assess the potential impacts of climate change on water levels. The Study also utilized stakeholder engagement to further understand concerns surrounding uncertain water levels many of which are outlined in the Short Description section. Some of the future climatic risks could be associated with low lake levels which could affect municipal water supply, ecosystems and property values amongst other impacts. The primary challenge in understanding potential impacts of unpredictable lake levels has been a lack of certainty related to information provided by the hydroclimatic analyses. Current uncertainties could be minimized through more robust and coordinated data collection efforts. In this vein, the Study calls for an expansion to formal data collection programs in the Great Lakes region and a continued effort to improve upon analyses undertaken by the Study.
The Lake Superior Regulation: Addressing Uncertainty in Upper Great Lakes Water Levels study (the Study) brought together various levels of government as well as stakeholders and experts through the International Joint Commission (IJC) to consider water levels given improved modelling technologies and evolving best practices in stakeholder engagement. While the impetus of the Study was largely guided by the IJC’s broad directive to understand the effects of and options to address changing climate conditions on the Great Lakes, stakeholder engagement brought increased clarity and specificity to the Study objectives. In particular, stakeholders expressed concern regarding ecosystem health, flooding, erosion, property values, shipping costs, water supply, and recreation. While the Study Board does not have the mandate to implement actions, the Study concluded by providing a multitude of recommendations. The most crucial of these recommendations was the promotion of a new regulation plan for Lake Superior which was shown to perform better under both drought and flood conditions. The new regulation plan was formed through consultation with relevant stakeholders who helped to create and compare over 100 alternative regulation plans. Despite a multitude of recommendations, the Study also concluded that modelling and projections should be improved in relation to the Great Lakes system in order to gain higher level of certainty as to the future risks facing the area.Read the Full Story