Groundwater Science Relevant to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement: A Status Report
The Great Lakes are a vital resource for millions of people in North America, providing key environmental, economic, and social benefits to the region. However, their health and sustainability are threatened by a range of factors, including pollution from various sources, climate change, and increasingly frequent extreme weather events.
To address these challenges and work towards protecting the Great Lakes, the United States and Canada entered into the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA) in 1972, which has been revised and updated over the years. The most recent version was signed in 2012, and it includes a focus on groundwater science as a key component of the overall effort to improve water quality.
Groundwater is an essential part of the Great Lakes system, as it provides approximately 40% of the water that flows into the lakes. Consequently, understanding the science behind groundwater interactions with the Great Lakes is critical to addressing water quality issues. This includes understanding how pollutants can move through groundwater and impact surface water quality, how groundwater recharge rates may be affected by climate change, and how groundwater and surface water interact in various ecological systems.
A recent report by the Great Lakes Groundwater Science Advisory Board (GLGSAB) provides a status report on the current state of groundwater science relevant to GLWQA efforts. The report highlights several key findings, including:
– The need for improved monitoring and data collection: The GLGSAB identified a lack of comprehensive and consistent data on groundwater quality and quantity in the Great Lakes region. This hinders efforts to accurately assess the impacts of human activities on groundwater and surface water quality.
– The importance of ecological connections: Groundwater plays a critical role in supporting wetlands, streams, and other important ecological systems. Understanding these connections is essential to protecting these systems and the water quality they depend on.
– Climate change impacts: Climate change is expected to have significant impacts on groundwater recharge rates in the Great Lakes region, which could have far-reaching consequences for water quality and availability.
– The need for more research: Despite progress in recent years, there is still much that is unknown about groundwater interactions with the Great Lakes. Additional research is needed to fully understand the complex dynamics at play.
Overall, the GLGSAB report highlights the importance of continued focus on groundwater science as a key element of efforts to protect and improve the Great Lakes. By improving our understanding of the complex interactions between groundwater and surface water, we can work towards more effective policies and management strategies to support the health and sustainability of this vital resource for generations to come.