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Executive Summary


Key Findings

Physical Integrity

Biological Integrity

Chemical Integrity

Ecosystem Integrity



The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (Agreement), created by Canada and the United States in 1972 to restore and protect the largest body of surface freshwater on the planet, provides an example to the world of how two countries can forge a commitment to restore the integrity of shared bodies of water. The Agreement's stated purpose is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the waters of the Great Lakes basin ecosystem. It is this purpose, the integrity of the lakes and, by extension, the environmental integrity of both countries, that this Twelfth Biennial Report on Great Lakes Water Quality addresses.

The Agreement requires the International Joint Commission (Commission) to assess progress and assist both governments in achieving this commendable goal. As stated in our Declaration, issued at the conclusion of the Biennial Meeting in Ann Arbor, Michigan in September 2003, the Agreement has served as a blueprint for cooperation and coordination of largely successful stewardship of the Great Lakes for more than 30 years. Vigorous public participation and dialogue among all interested parties has and must remain a cornerstone of Agreement implementation.

The U.S. and Canadian governments, the Parties to the Agreement, must perform a comprehensive review of the Agreement after every third biennial report from the Commission. This Twelfth Biennial Report marks the beginning of the next required review process. We urge the Parties to be thorough, visionary and far-reaching as they review the Agreement, and as they address critical questions regarding its scope, the Commission's role, and emerging issues not included in the Agreement. In the September 2003 Declaration, the Commission commits to assisting the Parties in this review process and engaging the public in active dialogue to ensure input from all who care about the health of the Great Lakes basin ecosystem. The Commission will provide detailed advice to governments on the Agreement's review later in 2004.