Why We Need Our Great Lakes
Home to more than 98 per cent of Ontarians, the Great Lakes Basin underpins our high quality of life. Here are just a few ways we rely on and enjoy them every day:
- The water we drink. More than 80 per cent of Ontarians get their drinking water from the Great Lakes.
- Biodiversity. The lakes support a diverse array of plants and animals, with rich ecosystems that are unique in the world.
- Fishing. Fishing is part of Ontario's Great Lakes heritage and culture. The commercial fishery contributes $234 million to the province’s economy every year and recreation fishing contributes more than $600 million dollars to the Ontario economy each year.
- Tourism. In 2010, Ontario had more than 73 million tourist visits in the Great Lakes region, injecting $12.3 billion into our economy.
- Recreation. There are 100,000 cottages near the shoreline of the Great Lakes and more than 1.5 million recreational boaters travel the waters of the Great Lakes every year. Clean and beautiful beaches matter to Ontario families spending a day at the water’s edge.
- Spirituality. For millennia, First Nations peoples have lived in the Great Lakes Basin – maintaining a spiritual and cultural relationship with the Great Lakes.
- Industry. Ontario’s Great Lakes basin contains 40 per cent of the country’s economic activity. Manufacturing operations such as steel and cement, fisheries, tourism and recreation, aggregates and mining, all depend on water from the Great Lakes and their tributaries.
- Agriculture. In Ontario, one-third of the land in the Great Lakes Basin supports a thriving agriculture and food industry. Ontario’s agriculture and food industry accounts for 23 per cent of Canada’s farm cash receipts. The agri-food industry contributes $33 billion a year to Ontario’s gross domestic product and employs 700,000 people.
- Shipping. Shipping on the Great Lakes generates wealth, creates employment, and supports other industries with raw materials and products shipped to and from markets throughout Ontario, Canada and internationally. In 2007, 43 million metric tonnes of cargo valued at more than $7 billion moved through the seaway.
- Electricity . Hydroelectric power is a renewable resource that has fuelled Ontario's economic growth since the beginning of the twentieth century. More than 65 hydroelectric stations on 24 rivers, many of which feed into the Great Lakes, provide almost 2 million kilowatts of electricity from a number of Ontario-based power plants.
For all of these reasons, and for the intangible value these immense bodies of water give to our people, the Great Lakes are the foundation for Ontario’s strength and success. We must protect them and, when we find them in jeopardy, we must restore them to good health.