Regional goals for the Great Lakes
Through Blue Accounting, experts collaborate to track progress toward shared goals for key issues affecting the Great Lakes. Below is what we are currently tracking for Lake Erie.
Established in 2016, water quality goals and metrics are challenging to achieve because excess phosphorus has accumulated in streams and ditches over many years. Measuring progress is also complicated by the challenge of slowing the flow of water during spring snowmelt and rain.
Tracking the severity of the cyanobacterial harmful algal bloom (HAB) in western Lake Erie.
Rain and snowmelt during the spring (March 1 through July 31) are a driver of bloom severity later in the summer. Progress is tracked by counting the number of years targets for soluble reactive phosphorus loads were met during the past ten year period.
Limiting the annual total phosphorus load is thought to keep oxygen concentrations in the bottom waters of Lake Erie at an acceptable level to avoid hypoxia (these low-oxygen areas are sometimes referred to as “dead zones”). Progress is tracked by counting the number of years targets for total phosphorus loads were met during the past ten year period.
Lake Erie jurisdictions required to create Domestic Action Plans pursuant to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement are currently implementing those plans, including strategies reduce phosphorus contributions to Lake Erie
About Lake Erie
Lake Erie is the smallest of the Great Lakes in volume (119 cubic miles) and is exposed to the greatest effects from urbanization and agriculture.
Measuring 241 miles across and 57 miles from north to south, the lake’s surface is just under 10,000 square miles, with 871 miles of shoreline. The average depth of Lake Erie is only about 62 feet (210 feet, maximum). It therefore warms rapidly in the spring and summer, and frequently freezes over in winter.
The drainage basin covers parts of Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Ontario. Because of its fertile soils, the basin is intensively farmed and is the most densely populated of the five lake basins.
Partners working together
In addition to being part of a large, complex system, each Great Lake possesses unique attributes that warrant specifically tailored approaches to restoration and protection. A key mechanism for identifying priorities and coordinating restoration actions at a lake basin scale are Lakewide Action and Management Plans (LAMPs). LAMPs are plans of action to assess, restore, protect and monitor the ecosystem health of each Great Lake and its connecting river system. They provide a mechanism to coordinate the efforts of government and nongovernmental partners working to improve the lake's ecosystem.
LAMPs are called for in the Lakewide Management Annex of the 2012 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Under this binational agreement, Canada and the United States have committed to: “contribute to the achievement of the General and Specific Objective of this Agreement by assessing the status of each Great Lake, and by addressing environmental stressors that adversely affect the Waters of the Great Lakes which are best addressed on a lakewide scale through an ecosystem approach.”
LAMPs are established for each of the five Great Lakes and their connecting river systems, as follows:
The Lake Erie LAMP, 2019-2023, was developed by members of the Lake Erie Partnership, a collaborative team of natural resource managers led by the governments of Canada and the United States, in cooperation and consultation with state and provincial governments; tribal governments, First Nations and Métis; municipal governments, and watershed management agencies. The LAMP fulfills the binational commitment to assess ecosystem condition, identify environmental threats, set priorities for research and monitoring and identify further actions to be taken by governments and the public that address the key threats to the waters of Lake Erie, the Detroit River, Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair River.
What we do
Blue Accounting is an information service to track the region’s progress toward shared goals for the Great Lakes. Maintained by the Great Lakes Commission, the information developed by Blue Accounting helps elected officials make sure that policies and programs are effective at protecting the largest fresh surface water system on earth.
What we measure
The Great Lakes Commission’s Blue Accounting team works with experts to identify goals and methods to track progress on key Great Lakes issues. Currently, Blue Accounting is tracking progress on protecting the region from aquatic invasive species and keeping phosphorus out of Lake Erie.