Canada has recently pledged nearly $306 million to improve water quality in the Great Lakes, which will benefit businesses and communities that rely on these vital water resources. This announcement follows a meeting between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and US President Joe Biden. Funding will be allocated to a variety of projects aimed at combatting 20th-century industrial pollution and newer challenges such as climate change, PFAS chemicals, and microplastics.
Commitment from the Canadian Government
The Great Lakes contain 20% of the world’s freshwater supply and are critical to the economies of both Canada and the United States. As a source of drinking water supporting a $6 trillion economy, and being home to more than 3,500 species of plants and animals.
“The Great Lakes are a source of drinking water for 40 million people, and this shared resource needs to be protected,” Trudeau said. “This is why Canada will make a major new investment … to continue safeguarding the Great Lakes for generations to come.”
Investing in the health of the Great Lakes is not only vital for the environment and public health but also for businesses and industries that depend on these water resources. Further, the funding will help improve the quality of water for agricultural irrigation, recreational activities, and commercial shipping, among other uses.
Saving the Great Lakes
In 1972, an agreement was signed between then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and President Richard M. Nixon to restore and protect the Great Lakes. Since then, the agreement has been updated several times to address new challenges.
Today, the Great Lakes continue to face a variety of issues, including toxic residues in harbors and river mouths, invasive species such as quagga mussels, loss of nearshore fish and wildlife habitat, and harmful algae blooms fueled by farm and urban runoff.
To address these challenges, the US Great Lakes Restoration Initiative was launched by President Barack Obama in 2010. Since then, the initiative has invested approximately $4 billion in projects aimed at restoring and preserving the Great Lakes. With an average annual spending of between $300 million to $400 million, the initiative is committed to ensuring the long-term health and sustainability of this vital natural resource.
Future Funding for the Region
Congress authorized $425 million for the fiscal year 2024, while an additional $1 billion from Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law is being devoted largely to completing work on longstanding industrial site cleanups.
During the past 6 years, Canada only committed just $33 million to cleanup efforts. Subsequently, Trudeau’s pledge Friday drew praise from house members who had pushed for a bigger Canadian contribution.
According to a University of Michigan analysis, every $1 spent under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative generates $3.35 across the region, and even more in certain areas.
Rep. Brian Higgins, a New York Democrat, said the lakes “are a resource both nations share, and it is incumbent on us all to invest in its health and future.”