State of the Great Lakes 2022

The State of the Great Lakes reports are developed by the governments of Canada and the United States, in collaboration with many partners, in accordance with the 2012 Canada-United States Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. State of the Great Lakes assessments support the identification of current and emerging challenges to Great Lakes water quality and ecosystem health, and help inform and engage others.

What are the Great Lakes indicators telling us?

Overall, the Great Lakes are assessed by the State of the Great Lakes indicators as Fair and the trend is Unchanging. There has been tremendous progress to restore and protect the Great Lakes, including the reduction of toxic chemicals, and a reduction in the establishment of new non-native aquatic species. However, some indicator assessments demonstrate that there are still significant challenges, including the impacts of nutrients, especially in Lake Erie and localized areas, and the impacts of invasive species. Climate change is already exacerbating some threats. The continued actions of many groups and individuals are contributing to further improvements in the Great Lakes.
Drinking water being poured into clear glass.

Can we drink the water?

Yes. The Great Lakes remain a source of high-quality drinking water when treated.
See the Drinking Water assessment

Aerial view of Port Huron on Lake Huron with sandy pink beach and turquoise water.

Can we swim at the beaches?

Yes. However, some beaches are occasionally unsafe for swimming due to bacterial contamination indicating pathogen risks.
See the Beach assessment

Boy fishing from pier in Ohio.

Can we eat the fish?

Generally, yes. Great Lakes fish can be safely eaten by following consumption guidelines and advisories. However, unrestricted fish consumption is not yet possible, which has a greater impact on communities that heavily rely on fish for food and cultural, spiritual, or economic purposes.
See the Fish Consumption assessment

Hamilton Harbour; industrial area in background, body of water in foreground.

Have levels of toxic chemicals declined in the environment?

Generally, yes. Many chemicals, such as PCBs and mercury, have declined significantly in the Great Lakes but concentrations of some toxic chemicals still pose threats to human health and the environment.
See the Toxic Chemicals assessment

Three Blue-winged Teal ducks standing in shallow water.

Are the lakes supporting healthy wetlands and populations of native species?

Yes and no. Healthy coastal wetlands exist in each Great Lake basin. However, Great Lakes coastal wetlands vary in quality with the healthiest in northern locations where the footprint of human activity is the lowest. Changes have taken place in the food webs of the Great Lakes to varying degrees and the impacts of stressors such as invasive dreissenid mussels (zebra and quagga mussels) and climate change continue. Native fish species such as Lake Trout and Lake Sturgeon are responding well to restoration efforts in several areas across the Great Lakes.
See the Habitat and Species assessment

Arial view of Maumee Bay.

Are nutrients in the lakes at acceptable levels?

No. High nutrient levels in parts of Lake Erie, and some embayments in other parts of the Great Lakes, are contributing to blooms of toxic cyanobacteria and nuisance algae. On the other hand, very low nutrient levels in the offshore waters of lakes Michigan, Huron, and Ontario have resulted in productivity (algal and organism growth rates) below desired levels. Only Lake Superior has relatively good nutrient conditions, which helps to maintain a healthy food web.
See the Nutrients and Algae assessment

Round goby

Are we limiting new introductions and the impacts of non-native species?

Yes and no. The rate of introduction of new non-native species to the Great Lakes basin has greatly declined. However, the impacts of established invasive species persist, and invasive species continue to spread within and between the lakes.
See the Invasive Species assessment

Man accessing groundwater from outdoor well in Prentice Park, Wisconsin.

Is groundwater negatively affecting the water quality of the lakes?

Generally, no. Groundwater typically provides good quality water to tributaries in the basin and to the Great Lakes. In some areas of the Great Lakes watershed, however, groundwater has elevated levels of pollutants, such as nitrate and chloride. There are also contaminated groundwater sites being actively investigated and remediated.
See the Groundwater assessment

Stormy water splashing wooded shoreline.

Are land use changes or other stressors impacting the lakes?

Yes. Watershed stressors such as population growth, habitat loss and degradation, land-use activities, as well as climate change, can impair Great Lakes water quality and ecosystem health.
See the Watershed Impacts and Climate Trends assessment

What is the status of each lake?

Outline of Lake Superior in blue watercolour

Lake Superior's forested watershed and coastal wetlands help maintain water quality and a healthy aquatic ecosystem – Lake Superior is assessed as Good and Unchanging.
See the Lake Superior assessment

Outline of Lake Michigan in blue watercolour

Lake Michigan's habitats support a diverse array of plant and animal species and its waters continue to provide opportunities for swimming and recreational use. However, invasive species and other stressors continue to affect both water quality and the lake’s food web – Lake Michigan is assessed as Fair and Unchanging.
See the Lake Michigan assessment

Outline of Lake Huron in blue watercolour

Lake Huron remains healthy despite nearshore algal blooms and a reduction in offshore nutrients by invasive filter-feeding mussels – Lake Huron is assessed as Good and Unchanging.
See the Lake Huron assessment

Outline of Lake Erie in blue watercolour

Lake Erie supports a productive Walleye fishery, but elevated nutrient concentrations and algal blooms are persistent problems – Lake Erie is assessed as Poor and Unchanging.
See the Lake Erie assessment

Outline of Lake Ontario in blue watercolour.

Lake Ontario shows improvements with fewer beach closings and declines in contaminant concentrations in fish – Lake Ontario is assessed as Fair and Unchanging to Improving.
See the Lake Ontario assessment


The State of the Great Lakes (SOGL) 2022 Report is a summary of science-based information from 40 sub-indicator reports. These sub-indicator reports are included in their entirety in the State of the Great Lakes 2022 Technical Report.