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

Great Lakes Water Quality


Great Lakes Triennial Meeting 2013

Under the new Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, the IJC held the first Great Lakes Triennial Meeting on Sept. 10, 2013, in conjunction with Great Lakes Week. Per the agreement, the Commission, in cooperation with the Canadian and U.S. governments, also organized a Great Lakes Public Forum.

Video of the Triennial and Forum are available at

Current Priorities

In 2012, the Commission adopted four major priority areas for its Great Lakes work from 2012-2015.  For each priority, the Commission 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.  Learn more about:

Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement 2012

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

Great Lakes Water Quality Board

The Great Lakes Water Quality Board is the principal adviser to the IJC. Currently, the Commission is updating the terms of reference for the WQB to reflect the new Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement

Biennial Reports

Between 1972 and 2012, the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement required the Commission to report every other year on progress toward meeting the Agreement’s objectives. The biennial reports have focused attention on important Great Lakes problems, helped promote public awareness and contributed to enhanced policies of the two governments. The 2012 Agreement requires IJC progress reports every three years.

Biennial Meetings

The IJC has 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 Commission’s biennial Great Lakes water quality reports.

1987 Agreement

The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement 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.