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