International Joint Commission (IJC)
More than a century of cooperation protecting shared waters

Great Lakes Water Quality

Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement 

The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA) is a formal international agreement, first signed in 1972 by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and President Richard Nixon, and updated in 1978, 1987 and 2012. The Agreement reflects the commitment of Canada and the U.S. to address a wide range of water quality issues facing the Great Lakes and the international section of the St. Lawrence River. 

In 2012, the governments of Canada and the United States substantially revised the 1987 Agreement. The new 2012 GLWQA came into force Feb. 12, 2013, and gives the IJC substantial responsibilities to assess progress and to engage and inform the public.

The IJC’s role Under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement is to analyze information provided by the governments, assess the effectiveness of programs in both countries and report on progress toward meeting the Agreement’s objectives. The initial Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement established a Water Quality Board to advise the IJC and a regional office in the Great Lakes basin, administered by the IJC, to assist the IJC with its responsibilities under the Agreement.  

Great Lakes Water Quality Board

The Great Lakes Water Quality Board was established as the principal advisor to the IJC under the 1972 GLWQA . In 2014, the IJC updated the mandate and detailed functions for the Great Lakes Water Quality Board to reflect the new GLWQA. The Great Lakes Water Quality Board assists the IJC by:

a)    reviewing and assessing progress of the Parties in implementation of this Agreement;

b)    identifying emerging issues and recommending strategies and approaches for preventing and resolving the complex challenges facing the Great Lakes; and

c)    providing advice on the role of relevant jurisdictions to implement these strategies and approaches. 


Current Priorities

In 2012, the IJC adopted four major priority areas for its Great Lakes work from 2012-2015.  For each priority, the IJC approved a desired outcome that should result from its work by 2015 and assigned a staff management team to work with its Great Lakes boards and other experts. 

Four current priorities:

 

Meetings and Reports under the 2012 GLWQA

Per the new agreement, the Canadian and U.S. governments shall convene, in cooperation with the IJC, a Great Lakes Public Forum one year after the implementation of the new 2012 GLWQA and every three years after the first Forum.

The first Great Lakes Public Forum was held on September 10, 2013 in conjunction with
Great Lakes Week. (Videos of the event are available at www.greatlakesnow.org)

The next Great Lakes Public Forum scheduled for 2016 will provide an opportunity for the IJC to discuss and receive public input on the Progress Report of the governments of Canada and the U.S. which will be made available to the public and to the IJC before the next Great Lakes Public Forum.

Under the new Agreement, the IJC is required to report every three years on progress toward meeting the Agreement’s objectives. The IJC’s first triennial Assessment of Progress Report, under the new Agreement, will be available in 2017. 

 

Past Meetings and Reports under the 1987 GLWQA

Between 1972 and 2012, the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement required the IJC to report every two years on progress toward meeting the Agreement’s objectives.

  • Biennial Meetings
    The Canadian and U.S. governments with the IJC convened a major public meeting in the Great Lakes Basin every other year to present up-to-date science and hear from the public on Great Lakes water quality challenges.  Attended by thousands of citizens, the meetings have contributed important information and data to the IJC’s biennial Great Lakes water quality reports.
  • Biennial Reports
    The biennial reports have focused attention on important Great Lakes problems, helped promote public awareness and contributed to enhanced policies of the two governments.