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More than 30 million people depend on the Great Lakes for their drinking water, and millions more benefit from the commerce and business that depends on the waters of the Great Lakes.
Today, the health of our Lakes is seriously threatened by problems such as untreated sewage and invasive species. Unless America invests in the Lakes these problems will get worse and the price we pay will be higher.
The Great Lakes restoration action plan is a multi-year strategy to: modernize sewage treatment, clean-up polluted harbors, restore wetlands, and prevent unwanted, new species from invading the lakes. Each of these steps is essential if we are to restore the lakes and revive our economy.
We must act now to restore this great American resource. Every day we wait, the problems get worse and the solutions get more costly.
Here are the threats as we see them:
Sewage contamination: Antiquated wastewater systems spill at least 41 billion gallons of sewage into the Lakes every year, closing beaches, threatening public health, and undermining the quality of life for the millions of people who call the region home. We have solutions to halt sewage contamination. Increasingly, communities are restoring wetlands, building rain gardens and installing permeable pavement to deal with storm water before it overwhelms city infrastructure and causes sewage to enter local waterways. Read related posts…
Invasive species: Aquatic invasive species like the zebra mussel disrupt the Great Lakes food web, undermines recreational opportunities and costs people, businesses and communities more than $200 million per year in damages and control costs. Non-native Asian carp present the most urgent threat to the Lakes. We can prevent unwanted new invaders from entering U.S. waters by requiring ships to treat their ballast water. We can also prevent aquatic invaders like the Asian carp from colonizing other waters by building a physical barrier to separate the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds. Read related posts…
Habitat destruction: More than 66 percent of the Lakes’ original wetlands have been filled in or destroyed. Wetlands provide essential services for people such as reducing flooding, preventing erosion and improving water quality. They also provide vital habitat to wildlife, waterfowl and fish, and are the backbone of the region’s outdoor economy. By funding Great Lakes restoration programs, we can restore wetlands, improve water quality and support recreation opportunities for communities across the region. Read related posts…
Toxic pollution: Persistent, high concentrations of pollutants in the soil of rivers and harbors in the Great Lakes threaten the health of people, fish and wildlife. They also drive down home property values. We can change that. By removing toxic mud and sludge from Great Lakes rivers and harbors, restoration programs are helping local communities redefine their waterfronts, inspire new business development and attract people to the shores of the Great Lakes. Read related posts…
Polluted runoff: Heavy rain and snowmelt washes pollution from farm fields and cities into streams, rivers and sewage drains. So-called non-point source pollution—which includes pesticides, fertilizers, oil, grease and other pollutants—ultimately ends up in the Great Lakes, harming water quality and posing a risk to people, fish and wildlife. Great Lakes programs that restore native vegetation and wetlands in both rural and urban communities can prevent polluted run-off and protect water quality. Read related posts…
Climate change: The Great Lakes are likely to experience a wide range of negative impacts as air and water temperatures increase from climate change. Rising temperatures will exacerbate existing threats to the Lakes and create new ones, such as lower lake levels. Restoring the Great Lakes will help buffer the impacts of a rising climate. It’s important that the nation work to restore the Great Lakes and other iconic waters—while at the same time moving aggressively to curb the pollution that causes global warming. Read related posts…
- Related posts on Healthy lakes, Healthy Lives
- Policy solutions to threats facing the Great Lakes
- Report: “Turning the Tide: Investing in Wastewater Infrastructure to Create Jobs and Solve the Sewage Crisis in the Great Lakes”
- Report: “Great Lakes Restoration and the Threat of Global Warming”
- Report: “Prescription for Great Lakes Ecosystem Protection and Restoration: Avoiding the Tipping Point of Irreversible Changes”
- U.S. EPA Great Lakes Area of Concern program
- U.S. EPA invasive species and the Great Lakes