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Backgrounder

The Great Lakes Nutrient Initiative

The Government of Canada is committed to protecting and restoring Canada’s water resources for the benefit of all Canadians. The $16 million Great Lakes Nutrient Initiative will help to address the complex problems of recurrent toxic and nuisance algae, and nearshore water quality and ecosystem health in the Great Lakes.

The Initiative will focus on Lake Erie, the smallest and shallowest of the Great Lakes and most susceptible to nearshore water quality issues. The science and policy approaches developed through the Initiative will be transferable to the other Great Lakes and other bodies of water in Canada.

Algae blooms have economic, social and environmental implications. Toxic and nuisance algae blooms can lead to increased water treatment needs, disruptions to utilities by clogged water intakes, and negative effects on tourism, commercial and recreational fishing, and recreational activities such as swimming. 

Phosphorus is the primary nutrient causing excess algae growth. Common sources of phosphorus include fertilizers in urban and agricultural runoff, improper manure storage, municipal wastewater effluents, septic systems, and industrial discharges.

The Initiative will target five priority areas:

  • Establishing current nutrient loadings from selected Canadian tributaries;
  • Enhancing knowledge of the factors that impact tributary and nearshore water quality, ecosystem health, and algae growth;
  • Establishing binational lake ecosystem objectives, phosphorus objectives, and phosphorous load reduction targets;
  • Developing policy options and strategies to meet phosphorous reduction targets;
  • Developing a binational nearshore assessment and management framework.

The Initiative will also help Canada to deliver on key commitments under the recently amended Canada–United States Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement

Restoring and protecting the Great Lakes are a shared responsibility. The Government of Canada is committed to working with the United States and the Government of Ontario on water management, restoration and protection efforts in the Great Lakes. Many local governments, organizations, groups and individuals are also engaged and working together on activities to restore and protect the Great Lakes.

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