The Great Lakes hold over 20 per cent of the world’s surface freshwater, provide drinking water for millions, support billion dollar economies and are the foundation of the regional ecosystem. Pollution and development threats are putting them at risk.

The Solution

To help protect human health, the economy, and our environment, we have to keep our waters clean and safe. That means governments need to take action to protect the lakes, and businesses need to change their practices, in order to safeguard the Great Lakes and our other precious water sources.

Cash it! Don’t trash it

Plastic pollution is out of control in the Great Lakes. In Ontario, we’re working to put a price on plastic bottles to keep them out of the environment and increase recycling rates.

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Strengthening Great Lakes protection

The Great Lakes are under greater threat than ever before. To protect the lakes, we are working with communities and groups to help implement Ontario’s Great Lakes Protection Act.

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Reducing harmful algal blooms

Every summer, more and more parts of the Great Lakes are being covered over by harmful and toxic algal blooms, making water unsafe for people and wildlife. We’re working to ensure Ontario reduces phosphorus pollution into the lakes to stop these harmful blooms before they start.

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Blue Flag Beach Certification

When you see a Blue Flag flying, you know a beach or marina is clean and accessible, has great water quality, meets high safety standards; and is working to protect local shorelines and ecosystems.

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Timeline of our success


Lake Simcoe Protection Act  passes

Along with partners, we raised awareness about the need for tighter controls on development projects impacting Lake Simcoe. The result: a Private Member’s Bill was introduced, leading to the passage of the Lake Simcoe Protection Act.


Water Conservation and Opportunities Act  passes

As a member of the Ontario Water Conservation Alliance, we contributed to the development and passage of the Water Conservation and Opportunities Act in Ontario.


Bi-national Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA) signed

We played a role in getting this Canada-U.S. agreement signed by coordinating the response from NGOs, participating in content development, and helping to keep negotiations on track.


Ontario’s Great lakes Strategy completed

Working with other NGOs, we consulted the province on what it should include in its Great Lake Strategy. The strategy contains Ontario’s vision, goals and priorities to help restore, protect, and conserve the Great Lakes.


Canada-Ontario Agreement finalized

We worked with other groups to call on the federal and Ontario governments to sign a new Canada-Ontario Agreement (COA). The agreement ensures coordinated efforts by both levels of government to protect the Great Lakes basin


Ontario’s interbasin transfer regulations finalized

Along with other groups, we helped ensure the province fulfilled its commitment under an international agreement on water diversions. In December, Ontario announced a new regulation halting water diversions between Great Lakes watersheds.


The Great Lakes Protection Act  passes

In October, Ontario passed a strengthened Great Lakes Protection Act, which included several of our recommendations, to better protect the waters millions of Ontarians depend on to drink, work, and play.

Breaking News

More than a drop in the bucket: Ontario proposes new rules for water bottlers

Over the past couple of months, the bottled water industry in Ontario has been under fire. This week, the government announced it is taking action,...

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Water for sale: Why Ontario needs to change the rules for water bottlers

Bottled water has been a hot topic in Ontario lately. In response, Premier Kathleen Wynne has tasked Environment Minister Glen Murray with reviewing the water...

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New video turns Lake Erie algal blooms into a slime monster

Ghostbusters may be back on the big screen, but this summer, the biggest, meanest, slimiest monster can be found on Lake Erie.Today, we released a...

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Summer algal blooms are the new normal for Lake Erie

Last week, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced their 2016 algal bloom forecast for Lake Erie. Experts say 2016 will be a significant...

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Big problems require big solutions, and all of us can help make the changes we want to see. By signing petitions and attending events, you can make your voice heard and help to affect change.

"I am the 7th generation of a farming family. When I was a young girl, my Grandpa showed me a spring that he and his grandfather had been to as boys, when planting or working the farm. He taught me to look after that spring, the water and the land for my grandchildren. I have a duty to protect that water. And that’s why Environmental Defence’s work to protect our freshwater is so important."

-- Kim Sytsma


At Environmental Defence, we educate the public about a host of environmental issues, work with business and government leaders to advise on policy decisions and mobilize Canadians to create the cleaner, greener more prosperous country we’re striving for. Meet the team who works on Water.

Ashley Wallis

Program Manager, Blue Flag and Water

Isabel Balarezo

Program Coordinator, Blue Flag and Water

Join The Community

Change happens when people like you express your concern and make your voice heard. Join our online community of folks concerned about protecting Canada’s freshwater. We will send you a quarterly update on our campaigns, invitations to join us at events and opportunities for you to take action.

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