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 Ontario.
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.
Rain and snowmelt during the spring (March 1 through July 31) are a driver of bloom severity later in the summer.
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”).
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
Progress is reported by metric
Preventing the introduction of new non-native species is the most cost-effective approach to minimize future threats from AIS. Prevention activities aim to reduce the uptake, movement and introduction of non-native species, and may be applied to any of the pathways that introduce AIS into the Great Lakes basin: trade in live organisms, recreational activities, shipping, and canals and waterways.
The Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers identified and agreed to prohibit 21 "Least Wanted" aquatic invasive species. Blue Accounting tracks how many of those species are regulated in each jurisdiction, as well as related policies.
Blue Accounting tracks regulatory and non-regulatory approaches used across the region to ensure boaters take specific actions to reduce the risk of spreading aquatic invasive species. No target is currently defined for this metric.
target not defined
Early detection (i.e., monitoring) and response programs are intended to detect new non-native species early while populations are still localized. Early detection increases the likelihood that work to contain, control, and ideally eradicate new populations will be effective. A comprehensive basin-wide approach is needed to coordinate and guide detection and response efforts.
Blue Accounting is reporting on locations in the Great Lakes where surveillance for aquatic invasive species is a priority.
More than 185 non-native species are established in the Great Lakes, some of which are considered invasive and are causing ecological and/or economic damage. While significant progress is being made to prevent the introduction and establishment of new AIS, damaging populations of AIS that already exist should be managed to reduce their negative impacts.
Additional information about Ontario
Most Ontarians live within the watersheds of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River system. Their resources provide Ontarians with drinking water and energy, food and recreational opportunities. The lakes also provide the province with numerous economic advantages. Nearly 50% of Canada’s manufacturing along with 83% of Ontario’s power generation and 95% of Ontario’s agricultural lands depend on the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River basin.
Given the importance of the Great Lakes to the province’s economy, quality of life and environment, in 2015 Ontario established the Great Lakes Protection Act, which provides flexible tools to protect and restore the lakes. Additionally, Ontario is investing $10.9 million in multi-year funding in 98 new projects that will help improve the health of the Great Lakes. This investment supports Ontario’s commitments in the new Canada-Ontario Agreement on Great Lakes Water Quality and Ecosystem Health — a five-year agreement that sets out specific actions that the federal and provincial governments will take, together with Great Lakes partners, to restore, protect and conserve the water quality and ecosystem health of the Great Lakes. It also supports implementation of Ontario’s Great Lakes Strategy.
Ontario believes that one clear way to strengthen protection of the Great Lakes is by setting targets. The Great Lakes Protection Act allows the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, in consultation with other Great Lakes ministers, communities and stakeholders, to set specific or general targets for local and lake-wide areas, including the goal to reduce phosphorus loadings to the western and central basins of Lake Erie by 40 per cent by 2025 – a target set under Ontario’s Great Lakes Protection Act. The Canada-Ontario Lake Erie Action Plan serves as Ontario’s plan to achieve this target. This act will also provide the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry with authority to establish one or more targets for preventing the loss of wetlands.
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.