Water Quality

Clean water in lakes, rivers, streams, and estuaries supports healthy aquatic communities and provides humans with clean drinking water, recreational opportunities, and more. Protecting and improving water quality requires researchers, resource managers, and decision makers to coordinate efforts.

Water Center projects tackle complex water quality issues such as legacy pollutants, urban and agricultural discharges, climate change, and emerging contaminants of concern using collaborative approaches designed to meet the science needs of specific end users.

We support research that:

  • Evaluates strategies for reducing agricultural run-off. Several research teams are using watershed and ecosystem models to demonstrate how agricultural inputs to Great Lakes waters impact nearshore ecosystems, and to identify priority locations to implement best management practices. Teams are engaging environmental advocacy and agri-business groups in the development of potential land management scenarios. Teams are generating results that can inform policies and programs to reduce agricultural nutrient loads to Green Bay, Saginaw Bay, and Western Lake Erie. 
  • Employs novel science tools to address complex water quality concerns. Researchers are using state-of-the-art genomics and environmental chemistry techniques to characterize harmful algal blooms (HABs), target fecal pollution from urban sewer systems, and quantify microplastic pollution in the Great Lakes. This fundamental research is critical for improved understanding and future actions to address these water quality challenges.
  • Develops innovative monitoring techniques for water quality restoration projects. Quantifying the impacts of restoration at site, watershed, and basin scales is a critical component of adaptive management. Water Center supported teams are developing new methods to measure ecosystem response to stream restoration, evaluating both the ecological and community responses to novel urban green infrastructure installations, and measuring the biological and socio-economic benefits of wetland restoration projects.