Remember the Great Lakes on World Water Day


Remember the Great Lakes on World Water Day

Winter  Scene Chantry Island

World Water Day is celebrated each year on March 22. This day was designated World Water Day in 1992 at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro to raise awareness about the importance of preserving global water resources. Since then communities around the world participate in highlighting water struggles and the need for clean, accessible, public water for everyone.
We around the Great Lakes take water for granted. We live beside a reservoir holding 20% of the worlds fresh water. Were not threatened by a lack of water that hundreds of millions of people around the world are. Yet, for the disproportional wealth of water that we have this region, we have treated the Great Lakes as our personal toilet. We continue to have postings warning people not to swim in polluted nearshore waters, advisories on eating fish caught from the Great Lakes, reports of new toxins entering the Great Lakes, and on it goes.

  • Just 3 percent of the world's water exists as fresh water - 2 percent is locked in the polar ice caps; less than 1 percent resides in freshwater lakes and streams.
  • The Great Lakes contain an estimated 22,700 cubic kilometers of water - a fifth of all the liquid surface fresh water on Earth.
  • Great Lakes beaches are posted to protect swimmers from waterborne pathogens. These potentially dangerous microorganisms make their way into the Great Lakes from overloaded municipal sewage plants, from wildlife and polluted runoff from residences, yards, streets and farms.
  • All of the Great Lakes and their connecting channels are currently under fish consumption advisories for one or more toxic chemicals.  In 2002, mercury, PCBs, dioxins or chlordane were at least partly responsible for 96 percent of fish consumption advisories, while 75 percent were issued in part due to mercury contamination.
  • Air pollution is responsible for over 90 percent of mercury contamination in the Great Lakes, largely from coal-fired power plants.


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Here are a few Water Facts about the Great Lakes

  • On average, it takes a drop of water 191 years to cycle through Lake Superior (e.g. from entering as a drop of rain and exiting to Lake Huron via the St. Marys' River). Lake Michigan's retention time is 99 years, while Lake Huron's is 22 years. 
  • There are over 190 non-indigenous species of fish and sea creatures that live in the Great Lakes. While some of this sea life has resided in our waters since the early 1900s, most has appeared in the last 25 years. A new species appears in the lakes every six months.
  • More than two-thirds of Great Lakes fish species spawn in wetlands, and many rely on near shore vegetation for food and shelter. Wide-spread alteration and destruction of these habitats -- including 75% of Great Lakes shoreline and 2/3 of the region's wetlands -- harms native fish.

World Water Day is a good day to pause and reflect on how magnificent the Great Lakes really are, and that we have a moral obligation to protect them.  World Water Day is a good day to pledge to become engaged in efforts to ensure that we pass on a legacy of clean Great Lakes water to our children.

For more information on Lake Huron's environment, contact the Coastal Centre at (519) 523-4478.

For more information:

Geoff Peach, Hons. B.A., CCEP
Coastal Resources Manager
The Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation

P.O. Box 178
Blyth, Ontario, Canada
N0M 1H0

Phone: (519) 523-4478
Fax: (519) 523-4929

P Please consider the environment before printing this