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June 15, 2010

IJC calls for more effort to protect groundwater in Great Lakes basin

The International Joint Commission (IJC) today released a major binational assessment of the threats to groundwater in the Great Lakes basin.

Groundwater in the Great Lakes basin is similar in volume to Lake Michigan and provides a source of drinking water for millions of basin residents. Yet this major component of the Great Lakes basin ecosystem receives inadequate attention in policies designed to protect Great Lakes water quality. For example, Annex 16 of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, which addresses contaminated groundwater, is the shortest annex to the Agreement. The Agreement is currently being renegotiated by the governments of Canada and the United States.

The report, prepared by the IJC's Great Lakes Science Advisory Board with assistance from the Council of Great Lakes Research Managers and Health Professionals Task Force, recommends a range of actions by federal, state and provincial governments in the areas of research, monitoring, regulation, enforcement and financial support. Local governments are also encouraged to increase source-water protection, conservation measures and requirements for on-site wastewater treatment. In 13 appendices, the report assesses a range of specific threats to groundwater in the basin from de-icing compounds to confined animal feeding operations.

The International Joint Commission was established by the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 to help Canada and the United States prevent and resolve disputes over using their shared waters. The IJC also reports on progress in both countries to meet the goals of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. The report on Groundwater in the Great Lakes Basin is available in print from the IJC or online at


Ottawa Bernard Beckhoff (613) 947-1420
Washington Frank Bevacqua (202) 736-9024

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