Great Lakes Water Levels

Lake levels

After more than a decade of decline, water levels in Lakes Michigan and Huron reached historic lows in 2013, impacting the economy and ecology of the region. Water levels have risen following the recent cold winter, wet spring, and cool summer of 2014, underscoring the dynamic nature of the Great Lakes system.  The question of what to do about these changing levels becomes increasingly complex as one considers relatively stable water levels on the lower Lakes Erie and Ontario, contentious debate over engineering options, uncertainty about climate change impacts, and the wide range of affected stakeholders.

Given this challenging context, the Integrated Assessment Center and Water Center at the Graham Sustainability Institute are proposing an Integrated Assessment on Great Lakes Water Levels. The purpose of the assessment is to develop information, tools, and partnerships to help decision makers address the challenges and opportunities posed by water level variability. With a focus on Lakes Michigan-Huron and Erie, including the Lake Huron to Lake Erie corridor, the assessment will identify and evaluate environmentally, politically, socially, and economically feasible adaptive actions and policy options.

Refer to the Water Levels IA plan (PDF) for background information and additional details about the project and approach.

Planning Grant Request for Proposals

An effective IA in this context first requires identifying appropriate localities and partners willing to collaborate. To support this work, the Graham Institute will fund up to ten planning grants at a level up to $10,000 each. The planning grant work should focus on the feasibility of conducting an interdisciplinary, place-based analysis of options to respond to water level variability that will contribute to the IA. Planning grants will last for six months and run concurrently between March and August 2015. The schedule is as follows:

  • RFP Release: December 1, 2015
  • Informational Webinar: December 17, 2015
  • Deadline for Letters of Intent: January 6, 2015
  • Deadline for Planning Grant Proposals: February 2, 2015
  • Announcement of Awards: March 2, 2015

For complete details, review the Request for Proposals (PDF).

The December 17 webinar provided an overview of the planning grants and included a question and answer session.

For more information, please contact John Callewaert, IA Center Director at (734) 615-3752 or