Water is critically important to Michigan. “If you ask most people in Michigan about the importance of water, they would say, ‘it’s the essence of our being’ or ‘it’s the essence of our living’ or ‘it’s the essence of our life,'” said Patty Birkholz, a former state senator and current director of the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes. Just look at the state—it touches four of the five Great Lakes and is almost completely surrounded by water. Agriculture, manufacturing and tourism—the state’s three largest industries—depend on the Great Lakes.

As the historic Great Lakes compact made its way through state legislatures, much of the media coverage on the agreement focused on its ban of out-of-basin diversions. But the compact did much more.

Several Great Lakes-related measures have been introduced in state capitols across the region during the first half of 2011, from bills on how to handle future offshore wind energy projects to new legislative proposals on how states should manage their water resources.

Interstate compacts are contracts between two or more states creating an agreement on a variety of issues, such as specific policy challenges, regulatory matters and boundary settlements. This brief provides background on the history of compacts, their primary purposes, and information about compacts affiliated with the National Center for Interstate Compacts.