The Importance of and Next Steps for the 2023 TAP

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Rachel Wyatt
next steps 2023

Work represented in the 2023 Third Triennial Assessment of Progress Report (or TAP) has origins going back more than 50 years to when the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement was originally signed.

Whether you’re a policymaker looking for information to help develop and implement action plans or a Great Lakes advocate, here’s a bit of history and explanation on the relevance of the TAP report.

Recognizing the importance of the Great Lakes, the United States and Canada (the Parties) committed to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement in 1972, agreeing to restore, protect and enhance the water quality of the Great Lakes.

The Agreement, last updated in 2012, outlines nine general objectives for Great Lakes water quality, to ensure that the lakes are drinkable, fishable and swimmable.

great lakes water quality agreement objectives tap 2020

The Agreement’s nine general objectives, supported by 10 annexes, under which activities are organized. A graphic from the IJC’s 2020 TAP report

Every three years, the Parties document their progress toward achieving these nine objectives in a pair of reports: the Progress Report of the Parties (PROP), which summarizes the domestic and binational programs, policies and actions taken over the last three years, and the State of the Great Lakes (SOGL) report, which details the present ecological state of each of the Great Lakes. For more information about the governments’ assessment in latest SOGL and PROP, check out our story on public input on swimmable, drinkable, fishable Great Lakes

What is the TAP report?

The IJC serves as a binational third party and prepares a TAP report every three years to monitor the Parties’ progress on fulfilling Agreement objectives. This current TAP report covers progress from 2020 to 2022. The IJC has produced two other TAP reports, the first in 2017, covering progress from 2014 to 2016, and the second in 2020, covering 2017 to 2019. Prior to 2017, assessments where done biennially.

Article 7.1(k) of the Agreement outlines the general content of the assessment. To achieve this, the IJC works with its advisory boards on Great Lakes water quality policy, science and health to review the PROP in concert with the SOGL and the SOGL technical report.

The IJC also collects and considers input from the public on Great Lakes water quality. In addition, the IJC reflects on past work and current strategic opportunities to implement the Agreement and provides recommendations to the governments. Past TAP reports have included recommendations to support activities across the Agreement’s objectives, on collaboration, climate and nutrients, enhanced public engagement and greater government accountability.

After each TAP report is published, the IJC shares it with the Parties, state, provincial and regional governments, First Nations, Métis and Tribal governments, and the public, including public interest groups, researchers and research institutions, and businesses and other non-governmental entities.  

What happens next?

Something exciting is happening for the first time following the release of this TAP report—a review of the 2012 Agreement.

Article 5.5 states that following every third Triennial Assessment of Progress report issued by the Commission, the Parties “shall review the operation and effectiveness of this Agreement.” As the 2023 report is a third TAP report, this initiates the review process. While the Parties will determine the “scope and nature” of the review, they are to take into account the views of state and provincial governments, Tribal governments, First Nations, Métis, municipal governments, watershed management agencies, other local public agencies, downstream jurisdictions and the public.  

While we wait for news of what that review will look like, the IJC looks forward to working with the Parties and others on opportunities and recommendations outlined in the 2023 TAP report.

Photo of Rachel Wyatt
Rachel Wyatt

Rachel Wyatt is the communications officer at the IJC’s Great Lakes Regional Office.