Residents who live near the Great Lakes on both sides of the border are in overwhelming support of the need to protect the world's largest freshwater system, according to results from a new poll.
The International Joint Commission (IJC), an organization funded by the governments of Canada and the United States to resolve disputes over shared waters, released the poll results Tuesday.
The poll surveyed 4,250 residents in Ontario and eight states about their perceptions of the Great Lakes. It follows and expands upon a similar survey commissioned in 2015.
"We wanted to see how much awareness is there [among] the general public," said Raj Bejankiwar, a Windsor-based scientist with the International Joint Commission. "At the end of the day, public pressure is the one that creates policy actions from the governments."
The poll found that 88 per cent of respondents felt that protection of the Great Lakes is essential. A majority of respondents also said the freshwater system needs more regulations and they would support an increase in the cost of products if it meant greater protections.
"People are willing to pay [to protect the Great Lakes]," Bejankiwar explained.
The IJC will use the poll results to further develop its educational outreach programs. It will also use the results in its next "triennial assessment of progress" report, which evaluates the effectiveness of government policy in protecting the Great Lakes.
"We'll take this to the government and say, 'the public demands this,' and 'the public is willing to do this,'" Bejankiwar said.