Ground Water Canada

Great Lakes protection critical, Canadian and U.S. residents tell commission

April 15, 2016  By Ground Water Canada

Ottawa and Washington – Eighty-five per cent of respondents believe protecting the Great Lakes is highly important, according to one of the largest surveys ever conducted on public perception of the world’s largest freshwater system.

The International Joint Commission (IJC) sponsored the survey, which was completed by its Great Lakes Water Quality Board in late 2015 and is summarized in the report released April 15. Survey respondents live in Ontario and the eight Great Lakes states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin).

“This survey of almost 4,000 basin residents is one of the largest ever conducted, and provides a valuable picture of how the public perceives the Great Lakes, including key environmental issues and threats, as well as opportunities,” said David Ullrich, US co-chair of the IJC’s Great Lakes Water Quality Board, in a news release.


Key survey responses include:

  • A large majority of residents believe the Great Lakes should be protected for the benefit of fish and wildlife (76 per cent) as well as their economic significance to the region (76 per cent), their importance to human health now and for future generations (73 per cent), and as a valuable natural resource (53 per cent).
  • An even higher 86 per cent feel it is important to protect the lakes for recreational purposes, even if they personally do not use them. More than 40 per cent of those who had used the lakes for recreational purposes had enjoyed boating, swimming, fishing or another recreational activity in the lakes in the six months prior to the poll being conducted.
  • A whopping 85 per cent feel it is essential to protect the Great Lakes from a variety of threats, including pollution and aquatic invasive species. While most believe all sectors of society can play a role in these efforts, 25 per cent and 20 per cent list federal and state/provincial governments, respectively, as responsible for the lakes’ health.
  • The role of individual responsibility for protecting the health of the lakes is cited by 78 per cent of respondents, although 30 per cent are unsure what steps they can take.
  • While 20 per cent of respondents know of the IJC and its role in Great Lakes water quality issues, a large majority, 74 per cent, feel it is important that an organization like the IJC exists to facilitate cooperation in the Canada and the United States on issues impacting the Great Lakes, and to ensure that the goals and programs outlined in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement are accomplished.

“This survey provides a valuable tool to the International Joint Commission as we further our mission to help both countries develop collaborative strategies to protect the Great Lakes, to address environmental concerns, and to provide for the health of this resource for future generations,” said Rob de Loë, Canadian co-chair of the IJC’s Great Lakes Water Quality Board.

The IJC’s Great Lakes Water Quality Board will host a panel discussion on the poll’s findings on Monday, April 18, at 7 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn, 815 14th Street NW, Washington, DC. The public event will be valuable to media, Congressional staff for Great Lakes senators and representatives, policymakers and the public. For those not able to attend, the event will be broadcast via Periscope. Check the IJC’s Twitter feed @IJCsharedwaters on Monday afternoon for the link.

The IJC was established by the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 to help the Governments of Canada and the United States prevent and resolve disputes over the use of the waters they share. The Great Lakes Water Quality Board assists the IJC in monitoring progress by both countries to achieve the goals set out in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and provides opportunities for public consultation and participation throughout the Great Lakes region. More information can be found at

Read the full report.

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