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Geo Notes

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Western University
Geography 2010A/B
Suzanne Greaves

Geo Notes - Oct/12 Great Lakes - The great lakes consist of 20% of the world’s fresh surface water (surface water is the water located in rivers and lakes). They are also called the Sweewater Seas because they are freshwater. Ontario is the great lakes province, with honourary mention to Quebec. The great lakes are important to ON for fishing, tourism/recreation, transportation (St. Lawrence Seaway), and municipal water. The great lakes have suffered abuse because humans didn’t think of the effects of their actions. The water flows west to east. Four of the lakes are shared by Canada and the US and lake Michigan is located entirely in the US. There are two diversions into the great lakes basin – Long Lac and Ogaki. There is one diversion out of the basin – Chicago sanitary and Barge canal. There is a treaty that sets out the maximum amount of water that can travel out. Lakes Michigan and huron are joined by a strait, so their surface levels are the same. There are two diversions within the basin – the Welland and Erie canals. The erie canal was built in 1825 for transportation purposes. It joined the Mohawk river (tributary of Hudson river in NY). This canal provided a way for settlers to move west. It involved agriculture and crops were sold back to the east. The welland canal was finished in 1829, and it was Canada’s alternative to the erie canal. It provides a way around Niagara Falls. It is a major waterway into the heart of North America and it goes east-west. It doesn’t add or remove water from the system, it just facilitates the movement of water. The great lakes basin is shared between Canada and the US and we live in the great lakes basin. There one great lakes province (ON) and eight great lakes states (IL, Ind, Mich, NY, Minn, OH, PA, WI). The largest lake by volume is Superior and the smallest lake by volume is Erie. Land use of the upper lakes is natural and forest. Land use of the lower lakes is urban and agriculture. Concerns: - 1. Health of the lakes – Lake erie has shown the worst damage due to eutrophication. Eutrophication is when a lake is highly biologically productive. It occurs due to over-enrichment with nutrients, and these nutrients supply the raw material for vegetative growth. Increased vegetative growth can lead to increased algae, and this is a bad thing. In the 1960s, the state of the health of lake erie became important. Increased algae interfered with public enjoyment of the lake and people wanted something done about it, so they turned to the government. The bottoms of lakes have a lot of decomposing material and this draws oxygen down. Species higher up can’t survive because of reduced oxygen. Mayflies used to be a problem in the west end of the lake for 3 weeks of the year. In the 1950s, there was a drop in the population of mayflies. The reason for this was because part of their lifecycle is spent at the bottom of the lake, and they died because of lack of oxygen. Phosphorous was identified to be a problem. A point source can be identified. Non-point sources can have many sources. In 1972, the great lakes water quality agreement was passed. Its target was phosphorous loadings in lake erie and there was a push to improve water treatment plants. It was signed between Canada and the US and was brought about the international joint commission (IJC). The IJC studies problems that are brought to it by both federal governments and it make
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