Summer 2011: The Great Lakes
But today, the Great Lakes face a daunting array of threats. There is increasing evidence of climate change in the Great Lakes region—air and waters are warming, causing frequent and unusually strong storms that have resulted in massive flooding. Old, failing infrastructure in communities around the Lakes are responsible for an increase in sewage overflowing into waters that abound with swimmers and provide drinking water for more than 40 million people. Four of the five poorest cites in America border the Great Lakes—Detroit, Buffalo, Cleveland, and Milwaukee.
In addition, the Great Lakes are threatened by invasive aquatic species that enter the Lakes from the ballast of ships traveling from the Atlantic Ocean and St. Lawrence Seaway. Today, a new invasive species is being detected in the Great Lakes every eight months.
Further threats to the Lakes include conversion of pristine natural areas to housing developments, including summer homes, and the excavation of sulfide mines. The vast quantities of Great Lakes water are also being increasingly considered for supplying shortages in the U.S. Southwest and Southeast.
Eleven Great Lakes Waterkeepers in the U.S. and Canada are working separately and together to address these dire issues. For example, they joined forces to advocate for passage of the Great Lakes Compact, an agreement involving eight states and provinces that assures that Great Lakes water will stay in the Great Lakes by regulating diversions and in-basin consumptive uses of water.
In spite of the long odds, the Great Lakes’ 11 Waterkeeper organizations are playing critical roles in meeting the challenges and restoring these magnificent bodies of water to their past glory.