June 26, 2014 9:48 am

Low water levels in Great Lakes could pose economic risk: report

True colour satellite image of the Great Lakes region which includes the Canadian Province of Ontario and eight US states. Lakes are from west to east : Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.

Planet Observer/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

TORONTO – A new report by a public policy think tank says low water levels in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River could result in severe economic fallout for the region.

The Mowat Centre study says it could cost the United States and Canada more than US$18 billion by 2050 if water levels remain low.

The report says water levels in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence basin “fell dramatically” in 1997-98.

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Since then, it says much of the basin has experienced the longest extended period of lower water levels since the two countries began tracking levels in 1918.

READ MORE: Cold spring causing slow melt on Great Lakes

The report adds that while water levels have “rebounded” since 2013, due to factors including cooler temperatures in winter, it’s “unclear” if this is the beginning of a trend.

The Great Lakes – which hold about 20 per cent of the world’s surface freshwater supply – are also home to industries including hydroelectricity and commercial shipping, as well as recreational boating and fishing.

READ MORE: Great Lakes ice delays shipping of grain, other commodities

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