Restoring and Protecting the Great Lakes

The Great Lakes are a vast shared resource. They contain roughly 18% of the world supply of fresh surface water, and 84% of North America’s supply. They are home to millions of people, and are fundamental to the well-being of one third of the population of Canada and one tenth of the population of the United States. As our home and playground, the Great Lakes provide the foundation for billions of dollars in trade, shipping, manufacturing, fishing, forestry, agriculture, mining, energy and tourism and they are a direct source of drinking water for 10 million Canadians. Water from the Great Lakes drains into the St. Lawrence River, and therefore that ecosystem is directly affected by the quality and quantity of water from the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes basin supports a diverse, globally significant ecosystem that is essential to the resource value and sustainability of the region.

A number of challenges threaten the sustainability of the Great Lakes. These include:

  • toxic chemicals, including legacy contaminants and substances of emerging concern
  • excessive nutrients, leading to large-scale nuisance or toxic algae growth
  • beach closures and other problems in nearshore areas
  • aquatic invasive species
  • loss of biodiversity and loss of fish and wildlife habitat
  • impacts of climate change

These challenges have serious ecological, social and economic implications. Restoration and protection is critical to addressing these challenges and maintaining the health and function of the Great Lakes and its ecosystem.

Working together towards Restoration and Protection

Restoring and protecting the Great Lakes is a shared responsibility. That is why Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) is working with the government of the United States, other Canadian federal departments and the Ontario provincial government on water management, restoration and protection efforts in the Great Lakes. Many local governments, organizations, groups and individuals are also engaged and working together on activities to restore and protect the Great Lakes.

Related Links

  • Great Lakes Publications - Documents and reports about the Great Lakes available from ECCC
  • Binational.Net - is a collaboration between the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and ECCC, to provide a single window for information on joint Great Lakes programs.
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