Unprecedented Coalition Gathers For Historic Summit To Protect The Great Lakes By Taking Back Water Governance

Uniting advocates from across race, class, and gender lines, Chicago’s Freshwater Lab Summit will propose new policies for equal access to clean freshwater

Category: Investment, Water

Chicago, IL - May 4, 2017 (www.waternewswire.com) Giving community leaders an equal voice alongside government officials and academic researchers, a historic summit next week will tackle lead poisoning, oil pipelines, budget cuts, and other threats to the Great Lakes region with the aim of transforming water policy.

Untrouble the Waters is organized by The Freshwater Lab, an educational initiative based at the University of Illinois at Chicago that works to engage the public in freshwater issues. The Great Lakes - comprising Lakes Michigan, Erie, Huron, Ontario, and Superior - contain 21% of the world's entire supply of surface freshwater, with 50 million people dependent on them as a freshwater resource. The region supports 46 million jobs, or roughly 30% of the combined U.S. and Canadian workforce, and produces 28% of the two countries' economic output.

A newly released budget proposal from the Trump administration would cut 31% of the EPA's funding, the largest cut for any government agency in the entire budget. Drastically weakening programs that benefit the Great Lakes region, proposed cuts would include the elimination of annual funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiativeand the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Sea Grant Program, which includes initiatives throughout the basin.

The lineup of speakers and panelists represents the broad spectrum of communities whose health, lives, and livelihood are dependent upon the Great Lakes. Speakers include Maude Barlow, National Chairperson for the Council of Canadians; Denise Abdul-Rahman, Environmental Climate Justice Chair, NAACP Indiana; Robert Blanchard, Chairman, The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Tribal Council; Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson, and advocates from organizations such as Chicago's Southeast Side Coalition to Ban Petcoke, the Milwaukee Water Commons, and Sacred Keepers Sustainability Lab, a nonprofit dedicated to connecting young people to nature and indigenous cultures.

"It time for a brand new approach to the Great Lakes. With women, minorities, and low-income communities often bearing the brunt of environmental degradation, it's crucial that those groups are fully represented in any conversation about freshwater issues," said Dr. Rachel Havrelock, founder of The Freshwater Lab. "The Great Lakes play a vital role in our region's economy and public health, and by working together to preserve this precious resource and ensure universal access to its benefits, we hope to continue to serve as a model for other regions throughout the world that share freshwater resources."

The Freshwater Lab Summit will address a range of urgent water issues affecting communities across the Great Lakes basin, including water costs and the right to clean water regardless of race, wealth, or class; the threat of oil pipelines; the impact of lead pipes on freshwater delivery; and new models for enhancing water quality, human health, and everyday life. The summit will also devote an entire day to working group sessions, which will allow participants to identify and plan new initiatives that will be put into action in the summer of 2017.

Highlights of Untrouble the Waters: The Freshwater Lab Summit 2017 including The Great Lakes Mayors Panel can be found here.


The Freshwater Lab is an initiative to communicate Great Lakes water issues to the general public, create tools to visualize the current state and future scenarios of water sources, engage unaffiliated groups in water planning, and train a new generation of Great Lakes leaders. It was founded by Rachel Havrelock, Associate Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, a leading expert on the role that water sharing and water management plays in peacemaking, diplomacy, and economic equality. The first Freshwater Lab Summit was held in 2015. Entitled Water After Borders, the summit addressed transborder legal and political frameworks, as well as the ways in which class, culture, and gender influence environmental health and access. Visit www.freshwaterlab.org for more information.

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