International Joint Commission (IJC)
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Great Lakes Protection is Critical, Canadian and American Residents Tell International Joint Commission


Lakes Seen as Valuable for Drinking Water, Recreation and as Treasured Natural Resource

April 14, 2016

Eighty-five percent 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 today. Survey respondents live in the eight Great Lakes states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin) and in the Canadian Province of Ontario.

"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.

Key survey responses include:

  • A large majority of residents believe the Great Lakes should be protected for the benefit of fish and wildlife (76 percent) as well as their economic significance to the region (76 percent), their importance to human health now and for future generations (73 percent), and as a valuable natural resource (53 percent).
  • An even higher 86 percent feel it is important to protect the lakes for recreational purposes, even if they personally do not use them. More than 40 percent 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 percent 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 percent and 20 percent 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 percent of respondents, although 30 percent are unsure what steps they can take.
  • While 20 percent of respondents know of the IJC and its role in Great Lakes water quality issues, a large majority, 74 percent, 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

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For more information on this survey, the Great Lakes Water Quality Board and the IJC, the following representatives will be available for media questions:

Rob de Loë, Great Lakes Water Quality Board Canadian co-chair: Thursday, April 14 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at 519-888-4567 ext. 38648 or

David Ullrich, Great Lakes Water Quality Board U.S. co-chair: Thursday, April 14 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at 312-201-4516 or

Mark Mattson, Canadian co-lead of the Great Lakes Water Quality Board’s Public Engagement Work Group, which oversaw the poll’s design and production: Thursday, April 14 from 10 a.m. – noon at 416-861-1237 or

For general questions, please contact Sally Cole-Misch, Public Affairs Officer, IJC Great Lakes Regional Office at 519-257-6733, or Frank Bevacqua, Public Affairs Officer, IJC U.S. Section at 202-736-9024,