Lake Huron waterfall

Groundwater’s Role in Great Lakes Ecosystem Explored in Great Lakes Science Advisory Board Report


We know that the Great Lakes are one interconnected watershed, with thousands of rivers and streams draining into the lakes. We can see these surface waters and understand their immensity and flows. What about the vast system of water under the Great Lakes known as groundwater? How can we measure its volume and quality, how does it connect with and affect the Great Lakes, and what role does it play in our region’s water security?

These questions and others were considered by the IJC Great Lakes Science Advisory Board’s Research Coordination Committee in a report released today entitled, Great Lakes Surface and Groundwater Model Integration Review: Literature Review, Options for Approaches and Preliminary Action Plan for the Great Lakes Basin. The project assessed the feasibility of and need for an integrated surface water – groundwater model for the basin by identifying existing model initiatives through a literature review and survey, holding an experts workshop, and developing recommendations for a path forward to develop such a model.

“The influence of groundwater on the Great Lakes is not fully understood,” said Yves Michaud, Canadian co-chair of the project. “This project provided the opportunity for scientists and managers to develop a consensus vision for a binational, shared and unified model for groundwater and surface water.”

Sandra Eberts, the project’s US co-chair, said, “This model will be essential to understanding and managing the region’s water security in the coming decades.”

The report will inform the work of the two governments’ Annex 8 Groundwater Subcommittee that operates under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. It is anticipated that the recommendations will be useful in supporting the subcommittee’s science priorities, including developing improved models to assess groundwater − surface water interaction within the Great Lakes basin to better inform binational Great Lakes management decisions. The report may also be useful to other organizations seeking to improve the use of integrated groundwater and surface water models in decision making.

The IJC was established under the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 to help the United States and Canada prevent and resolve disputes over the use of the waters the two countries share. The IJC’s responsibilities include reporting on progress made under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the Great Lakes and connecting waters. The SAB-RCC is one of the key advisory groups to the IJC, in addition to the SAB’s Science Priority Committee and the Great Lakes Water Quality Board.


For more information, contact:

Li Wang, SAB-RCC Secretary                        519-257-6712

Sally Cole-Misch, Public Affairs Officer   519-257-6733