Lake Erie is the southernmost of the five Great Lakes and is also the shallowest, with an average depth of only 62 feet. This makes it the warmest and most biologically active of the Great Lakes and has allowed for a booming commercial fishing industry, as well as many other industries and recreational opportunities. Because it is part of the largest freshwater resource in the world, Lake Erie's watershed is densely populated, extensively farmed, and highly industrialized. With drainage from Ontario, Canada and the states of Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, & New York, Lake Erie is impacted by the activities of approximately 12 million residents. It is critical that watersheds draining to this precious resource are managed effectively.
A ravaging flood event in August of 2009 initiated the response of municipal officials in southern Erie County to lead a grassroots effort to proactively manage their local watersheds, all of which drain to Lake Erie. The storm event highlighted localized flooding problems, excessive debris accumulation in area streams, and overall non-point source pollution issues affecting their respective communities and ultimately Lake Erie. These watershed concerns were brought to the attention of the Erie County Water Quality Committee, which facilitated a more regional discussion of the issues. As a result, the Lake Erie Watershed Protection Alliance (LEWPA) was formed with Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, and Erie counties as a membership of stakeholders intending to address water quality issues affecting the New York portion of the Lake Erie watershed and its 84 miles of shoreline.
To find out more about the Lake Erie watershed and what you can do to help protect water quality, download the following or visit the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation's Watershed Stewardship website:
The mission of the Lake Erie Watershed Protection Alliance is to foster collaboration and partnerships within the watershed to address regional water quality and quantity concerns and in doing so, protect and enhance our Lake Erie resource. The mission will be furthered through the implementation of the following objectives:
- Support existing federal and state Lake Erie restoration initiatives or recommendations
- Implement a watershed management approach to protecting water quality
- Leverage community assets and other support
- Reduce point source and non-point source water pollution
- Protect and enhance swimming, fishing, and other recreational activities
- Reduce the impacts and costs of flooding
- Conserve, protect, and restore natural habitat
- Identify, prioritize, and quantify specific problems and their solutions in support of the mission
- Build community stewardship through education and outreach to improve community awareness of the value and importance of Lake Erie and to increase community involvement in preserving the lake as a resource
- Address failing and outdated municipal infrastructure needs
The LEWPA Water Resource Board includes members from Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, and Erie counties and meets quarterly (February, May, August, November) to discuss water-related issues.
For more information, contact your county's Soil and Water Conservation District:
Cattaraugus County: Brian Davis - (716) 699-2326
8 Martha Street, PO Box 1765
Ellicottville, NY 14731
Chautauqua County: Dave Wilson - (716) 664-2351
3542 Turner Road
Jamestown, NY 14701
Erie County: Mark Gaston - (716) 652-8480
50 Commerce Way
East Aurora, NY 14052
Lake Erie Resources:
Great Lakes Information Network offers news and information about Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes.
The Lake Erie Forum links to the Lakewide Management Plan and offers a one-stop shop for Lake Erie information.
Lake Erie Waterkeeper is based out of Ohio. Their website offers information about Lake Erie and the watershed including studies on algae and Asian carp.
Buffalo Niagara RIVERKEEPER is working to clean-up the Buffalo River and beyond!
The Earthy Report offers news on water across the Great Lakes and beyond!
Around the Water Cooler: Watersheds and Climate Change. This blog from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency illustrates the connection between climate change and water.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released the results of the latest drinking water survey showing the need for $384 billion to improve the nation's drinking water infrastructure by 2030.