Restoring the Great Lakes

Environmental Issues

Although the Great Lakes are large, they are sensitive to pollutants. Outflows from the Great Lakes are relatively small (less than 1 percent per year) in comparison with the total volume of water. Pollutants that enter the lakes are retained in the system and become more concentrated with time.

  • toxic and nutrient pollution
  • invasive species
  • habitat degradation

Pollution sources

  • runoff of soils and farm chemicals from agricultural lands
  • waste from cities
  • discharges from industrial areas
  • leachate from disposal sites
  • direct atmospheric pollutants that fall as rain, snow, or dust on the lake surface, or exchange as gases with the lake water

Cleanup and Restoration

Multiple government jurisdictions make Great Lakes environmental protection complex:
  • The United States and Canada
  • US EPA and nine other federal agencies
  • More than 140 different federal programs for environmental restoration and management
  • 8 states
  • nearly 40 Tribal Nations
  • more than half a dozen major metropolitan areas
  • numerous county and local governments

Managing this shared resource internationally

EPA has made clean up and restoration of the Great Lakes a major priority. Commitments and partnerships have long been formed between the United States and Canada to keep the Great Lakes region vital for the area's millions of people and its rich array of species and habitats.

EPA coordinates U.S. activities under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA), which frames the binational priorities and implementation between the United States and Canada to restore and protect the waters of the Great Lakes.

Funding cleanup and restoration work

For the following restoration topics, try searching the EPA Archive.
  • Habitat Restoration
  • Great Lakes Binational Toxic Strategies