fresh water supply, and 95 percent of the surface fresh water in the United States (MacKenzie, 1996). They provide an important inland waterway transportation system and have about 10,000 miles of inland coastline. Approximately 40 million Canadians and Americans live within the Great Lakes watershed.
The Great Lakes have suffered many water quality problems. Among the earliest was sediment pollution from logging and agricultural practices that caused a decline in fisheries in the late 1800s. For decades, the lakes also received direct discharge of industrial waste, sewage, vessel waste, and other products that were seen as benign because it was believed that the vast amount of water would dilute any discharge to insignificant levels. However, as population development increased along the shorelines in the early 1900s, pollution from the discharge of domestic sewage resulted in typhoid and cholera epidemics.
In 1909, the United States and Canada signed the Boundary Waters Treaty which established the International Joint Commission (IJC) as a permanent binational body. The IJC became a forum for international cooperation and dispute resolution regarding water quality, and it served as the regulator of water levels and flow between the United States and Canada. The IJC's Great Lakes Water Quality Board and Great Lakes Science Advisory Board also help in the administration of the lakes. However, despite the efforts of the IJC, pollution discharges into the lakes continued, and their biotic systems declined.
In 1978, the United States and Canada reviewed their Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and expanded it to address toxic contaminants in the lakes through a watershed approach. The document stated its purpose:
to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the waters of the Great Lake's Basin Ecosystem. In order to achieve this purpose, the parties agree to make a maximum effort to develop programs, practices, and technology necessary for a better understanding of the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem and to eliminate or reduce, to the maximum extent practicable, the discharge of pollutants to the Great Lakes System.
The IJC Water Quality Board identified 43 tributaries or near-shore areas of the lakes with poor water quality. The board is developing remediation action plans to deal with problem areas around harbors, inlets, connecting channels, and major municipalities. Each action plan is expected to use an ecosystem approach that calls for a functional arrangement of organizations and interests as equal members of the team.
Evaluation of the action plans is ongoing, but MacKenzie (1996) reports that "creation of a successful ecosystem management plan turns on process-related issues. For example, success requires plenty of opportunities for meaningful participation by all interested stakeholders, real attempts to achieve consensus, and a commitment to quality of the ecosystem." MacKenzie also found that strong fiscal support was important, as well as nurturing political support. Con-