Commission Releases Reports Highlighting Development of Great Lakes Indicators


[Windsor, ON] – The International Joint Commission (IJC) today released two reports on a suite of indicators for assessing the health of the Great Lakes. Prepared by members of the Commission’s Great Lakes Water Quality Board, Science Advisory Board and outside experts, the "Technical Report on Ecosystem Indicators: Assessment of Progress towards Restoring the Great Lakes" is a report that begins to identify the actual measures and methods that will be used in assessing the progress toward cleaning up the Great Lakes. A companion report, "Great Lakes Ecosystem Indicators –Summary Report: the Few That Tell Us the Most" provides a summary of the findings for a nontechnical audience.

"Are the lakes getting healthier? That is the question indicators will help us answer since they are critical measurements that reveal the condition of the lakes," said Lana Pollack, chair of the IJC’s U.S. Section. "Without indicators, assessment of progress is impossible and accountability is compromised."

"Assessing progress toward achieving the general and specific objectives of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement is a vital responsibility of the Commission," said Joe Comuzzi, chair of the IJC’s Canadian Section. "That is why we have selected a manageable suite of indicators that can provide a scientifically sound assessment of progress and be easy for the public to understand," he added.

The summary report identifies and defines 16 indicators that can be used to assess progress towards achieving the ecosystem objectives of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.  The 16 indicators cover the chemical, physical, and biological categories of ecosystem integrity,  addressing issues such as "Chemicals of Mutual Concern in Water", "Fish Species of Interest", and "Surface Water Temperature and Ice Cover". The selected indicators reflect consensus among dozens of scientists from both countries on which indicators to use to describe progress towards achieving the ecosystem objectives of the Agreement.

During the next phase, the IJC will work with its advisory boards and other experts to develop more specific details for each indicator and produce a draft indicator development report in 2014 for review by experts and the public for consideration by governments. The focus now is on refining the methods to help determine which data to collect, what endpoints or measures to use, and how to collect, analyze, synthesize, and report the findings. The Commission would also welcome comments on these topics while work on the indicator development report is underway. Please submit any comments that you may have on the technical report and on refining the techniques for the 16 indicators by November 1, 2013 via the "public engagement" tab on the Assessment of Indicators website at

The IJC is also identifying human health indicators and response indicators.  Human health indicators focus on the quality of drinking water, beach safety and the risks of fish consumption.  Response indicators assess progress made by management actions, such as acres of habitat protected or beneficial use impairments removed in the Great Lakes Areas of Concern.  More information about these indicator projects is also available at

Under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, the IJC assesses the progress of governments toward achieving the goal of restoring and maintaining the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the Great Lakes on a triennial basis.  The three-year cycle began when the Agreement went into force earlier this year.  The Commission will produce an assessment report in 2017 and also plans extensive public engagement and education in order to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to provide their views regarding the state of the lakes.



John Nevin                   Windsor           519-257-6733    

Frank Bevacqua           Washington     202-736-9024    

Bernard Beckhoff         Ottawa            613-947-1420