International Joint Commission invites recreational water users to attend public meetings, speak to health of Great Lakes
The Great Lakes are located at the heart of North America, a constant reminder of the life they support in both Canada and the USA. From space these five massive lakes, Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario, can evidently provide everyone with more swimmable, drinkable, fishable water than we could ever need in a million years.
We rely on them for everything from our drinking water, to our energy needs, to a place to go for a swim. But the demand we put on the Great Lakes leaves these waterbodies highly stressed.
Next week, from October 4 to October 6, the Great Lakes Public Forum is coming to Toronto. There will be integral discussions regarding the restoration and protection of Great Lakes water quality and ecosystem health. This event is also a celebration of these lakes that play a central role to our daily lives and culture.
With leaders and community members coming together to work on a shared vision for the future of the Great Lakes, this is an opportunity to find the best solutions to address the poor state of these great waters.
This is also your chance to make the future of recreational water a priority for the Great Lakes.
While pollution and climate change continue to threaten drinking water, fisheries, and ecosystems, prioritizing the swimmability of the Great Lakes may seem the least important.
However the best way to ensure the Great Lakes are swimmable drinkable and fishable – and remain that way – is to strengthen the public’s connection to them. Rally support for their long term protection.
Swim Guide network of Great Lakes Recreational Water Users
One of the most powerful tools Lake Ontario Waterkeeper has to connect people to the Great Lakes is also one of the simplest. It’s Swim Guide. Swim Guide was created and developed in Toronto, by Lake Ontario Waterkeeper and launched in 2011. At the time, Swim Guide had water quality information for 800 beaches on the Great Lakes using data from 70 government monitoring programs.
And the reason for starting Swim Guide? It all started with Great Lakes residents asking the question: “Can I swim in Lake Ontario?”
The primary goal with Swim Guide is to inform people whether or not their swim spot has met or failed recreational water standards. With this information, the water user can avoid getting sick.
As we share a love of the Great Lakes waters, Swim Guide encourages Great Lakes’ communities to protect their enjoyment of their waterways. And the only way we can get everyone on board is by getting Great Lakes communities out on the water. So go and experience your watershed. Without that connection, where is the motivation?
The Great Lakes are a recreational water users paradise. You can scuba dive for shipwrecks, surf the fabled Great Lakes winter surf, SUP, sail, paddle, and float. Fishing abounds. And you can swim.
There are over a thousand Great Lakes beaches. And the swimming opportunities are endless. These priceless interactions with these great waterbodies matters to the well-being of individual communities, as well as to the Great Lakes network. This physical connection with the lakes is the foundation to a Swim Drink Fish nation.
Imagine what the future can be with a network of Great Lakes communities protecting and promoting the swimmability of their lakes?
Why is your vision for the Great Lakes a swimmable one?
During the Great Lake Public Forum, there is a platform to voice your vision for the Great Lakes. Whether you swim, dive, SUP, surf, paddle, sail, fish, or simply read your book on the shores of the many glorious beaches, the ICJ wants to hear from you.
What does swimmable water mean to you and your community? What happens when it’s lost? What are your thoughts on the health of the Great Lakes? What are your concerns? What kind of recreational water activities do you participate in and around these waters?
So take another step forward as a water leader and participate in the public meetings. Join in one (or both) of the ICJ’s Public Meetings on October 5 and share your vision of a swimmable future for the Great Lakes.
The Swimmable Great Lakes: Fun Facts
There are approximately 1500 official beaches on the Great Lakes. Nearly 200 of those beaches are in Ontario.
Every year, an estimated 8-million swimmers flock to those Great Lakes beaches.
The value of Ontario’s Great Lakes beaches is as much as $262 million.
A 20% reduction in bacteria and other contamination at beaches could add more than a billion dollars in value to Great Lakes beaches in Canada and the USA.
Great Lakes beaches cover nearly 4800 kilometres of shoreline.
- Diversity of nearshore habitat on the Great Lakes is unique on a global scale. Nearshore areas offer the greatest biological productivity.