The Detroit River is an international border between the U.S. and Canada and the location of two Great Lakes Water Authority surface intakes. Coordinating with Canadian environmental agencies is critical to ensuring that the intakes are protected from potential impacts to sources of drinking water coming from both sides of the border.
When developing the 2016 Surface Water Intake Protection Plans (SWIPP) for the Fighting Island and Belle Isle Intakes, Great Lakes Water Authority contacted the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (then the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change) regarding source water protection challenges and mitigating strategies in place in Canada. Canadian representatives attended the SWIPP quarterly planning meetings by conference call. In addition to sharing their own strategies for source water protection, they were also able to provide a list of potential contaminant sources on the Canadian side of the river that had the potential to impact Great Lakes Water Authority’s three surface intakes. The Essex region of Ontario’s source water protection plan was used to compile a list of contaminant sites. This led to an expansion of Fighting Island’s intake buffer zones and critical assessment zones. This collaboration continued after the SWIPPs were finalized in 2016, with Canada continuing to participate in Great Lakes Water Authority’s tabletop exercises for spill and emergency response.
Including Canadian representatives in the SWIPP creation process allowed Great Lakes Water Authority to benefit from their knowledge, perspectives, and existing source water protection plans within the same watershed. This collaborative effort drives progress for the Source Water Initiative’s fifth goal of increasing the binational consistency of source water protection efforts in the Great Lakes basin.