The future of the Great Lakes region hinges on effectively leveraging and sustaining our primary asset – the world’s largest freshwater system. Hundreds of different entities – across eight states and two provinces – currently invest billions of dollars in restoring and maintaining the Great Lakes, but there hasn’t been a way to measure the effectiveness of these efforts to protect ecosystems, safeguard human health and bolster the economy.

In 2013, the Great Lakes governors and the premier of Ontario called for a smarter and more comprehensive approach to monitoring our Great Lakes water resources. Their resolution led to the creation of Blue Accounting, a new initiative and online platform that provides cutting-edge information services about the Great Lakes. This issue-based, goal-driven initiative will help our leaders manage the world's largest freshwater ecosystem in a more collaborative, effective, and holistic manner.

Blue Accounting measures progress on issues related to nine desired environmental, economic, and social outcomes for the Great Lakes region.

  1. Safe and sustainable domestic water supply
  2. Flourishing and sustainable natural resource-based economies, such as agriculture, aquaculture, nurseries, forestry and commercial fishing
  3. Flourishing and sustainable water-withdrawing economies, such as manufacturing and energy production
  4. Flourishing and sustainable non-consuming water-based economies, such as recreation, tourism and shipping
  1. Awareness of water value
  2. Stewardship of, and investment in, water resources
  1. Functional nearshore and coastal processes
  2. Healthy, diverse and connected habitats
  3. Healthy and abundant wildlife

These outcomes were developed as part of the initial Great Lakes Blue Accounting report, produced by a workgroup of regional stakeholders representing governments from Canada and the United States (from federal to local scales), three binational lakes commissions, food industries, power and shipping industries, and experts in hydrology, water quality, water accounting, local storytelling, and binational governance. Based on a combination of existing regional visioning documents and the output of that workgroup, these nine outcomes represent a Great Lakes region where ecosystems, economies, and social values work in harmony to thrive.

The Great Lakes Commission’s Blue Accounting team works with experts to identify goals and methods to track progress on key Great Lakes issues.