The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation in Flint, Michigan, has announced the launch of a program designed to help local and regional stakeholders manage and protect the Great Lakes ecosystem.
In 2014, toxic algae blooms that were fueled by excessive nutrients in western Lake Erie forced a brief shutdown of Toledo's water system. In the wake of the crisis, researchers discovered that similar conditions threatened municipal water supplies in several other Great Lakes communities. Established with a $4 million grant from the Mott Foundation, Blue Accounting is an ambitious attempt to help leaders and decision makers across the region establish water-management goals and measure progress against those goals.
The Nature Conservancy and Great Lakes Commission have already implemented the program, which is expected to cost more than $8 million over the first five years and is being tested in three pilot projects: in Lake Erie, where it will be used to track progress in improving source water quality for municipal water systems, including reducing nutrient pollution that fuels toxic algae blooms; in various Great Lakes river systems, where it will provide information to guide the removal of dams and other barriers that block fish and disrupt ecosystems; and, more generally, to assist the development of effective rapid response tools for confronting new invasive species discovered in the lakes.
For years, government agencies in the United States and Canada have assessed the ecological health of the lakes — information that has been underutilized as a tool for driving change. "We're spending billions of dollars to restore and protect the Great Lakes, but there is an information gap: these investments are assessed on an individual basis, not on a regional basis," said Steve Cole, chief information officer at GLC. "Blue Accounting is a new way of thinking about how we measure progress and how we use that information to work toward collective, desired outcomes."