How the Great Lakes are doing

Canadians and Americans share a priceless resource: the Great Lakes basin ecosystem, linked downstream with the St. Lawrence River. Spanning two provinces and eight states, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region is an important part of our physical and cultural heritage. We depend on our Great Lakes for drinking water, recreation, transportation, power and economic opportunities. Yet, the demands of a large population in this region have taken their toll over time, and the impacts of industrialization, climate change, invasive species and toxic contaminants, among other pressures, are evident in the environment.

The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, signed in 1972 and renewed in 2012, commits Canada and the United States to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the Great Lakes ecosystem. Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and their many Great Lakes partners work together to evaluate the current state of the Great Lakes, to anticipate emerging threats and to measure progress toward shared objectives established under the Agreement.

This process involves the development and assessment of comprehensive, science-based ecosystem indicators for issues such as contamination, native and invasive species, degradation and loss of habitat, and human health. It is challenging to simplify the complex nature and condition of the Great Lakes ecosystem; however reporting on indicators is a way to take complex information and make it more understandable.

State of the Great Lakes Reports

Pursuant to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, Canada and the United States, together with their many partners, established a suite of 9 indicators of ecosystem health, supported by 45 sub-indicators, to assess the state of the Great Lakes. State of the Great Lakes assessments support the identification of current and emerging challenges to Great Lakes water quality and ecosystem health, help Governments evaluate the effectiveness of programs and policies in place to address challenges, and help inform and engage others.

The State of the Great Lakes 2019 Highlights Report provides a synopsis of the overall health of the Great Lakes, which are assessed as Fair and Unchanging. While progress to restore and protect the Great Lakes has been made, including the reduction of toxic chemicals, challenges remain with issues such as invasive species and nutrients.

For previous State of the Great Lakes reports or other related documents, please visit the Government of Canada Publications catalogue.

For more information

  • Lakewide Management Plans (LaMPs)
    Binational action plans for cooperatively restoring and protecting the ecosystem of individual Great Lakes.
  • Great Lakes Areas of Concern
    Locations in the Great Lakes basin that have experienced environmental degradation, and have Remedial Action Plans in place to guide restoration and protection efforts.

Related links

  • is a collaboration between the USEPA and EC, to provide a single window for information on joint Great Lakes programs.
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