International Reference Group on
Great Lakes Pollution
from Land Use Activities


Pollution from Land Use Activities
eference Group

1972 - 1979


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Article VI of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, 1972, requested that the International Joint Commission inquire into and report on "pollution of the boundary waters of the Great Lakes System from agricultural, forestry and other land use activities, in accordance with the terms of reference attached to this agreement". The International Joint Commission (IJC) established the International Reference Group on Great Lakes Pollution from Land Use Activities (PLUARG) to plan and implement the requested study.

The PLUARG study program consisted of four major tasks as outlined in the Reference Group's February 1974 "Detailed Study Plan to assess Great Lakes Pollution from Land Use Activities".

  1. "TASK A is devoted to the collection and assessment of management and research information and, in its later stages to the critical analysis of implications of potential recommendations. (See Task "A" Reports)

  2. TASK B is first, the preparation of a land-use and land-use practices inventory, largely from existing data, and, second, the analysis of trends and projections in land-use patterns and practices to 1980 and, if possible, to 2020.  The present land use report is to be completed in 1974, and a report on trends to be completed in 1975. The Task B report for the Canadian part of the Great Lakes Basin is contained in five volumes: (See Task "B" Reports)

    • Volume I Canadian Great Lakes Basin Summary
    • Volume II Lake Superior Basin
    • Volume III Lake Huron Basin
    • Volume IV Lake Erie Basin
    • Volume V Lake Ontario Basin
  3. TASK C is the detailed survey of selected watersheds to determine the sources of pollutants, their relative significance and the assessment of the degree of transmission of pollutants to boundary waters. See details of this Task below.  (See Task "C" Reports)

  4. TASK D is to:

    1. obtain supplementary information on the inputs of materials to the boundary waters, their effect on water quality and their significance in these waters in the future and under alternative management schemes."

    2. diagnose the degree of impairment of water quality in the Great Lakes, including assessment of concentrations of contaminants of concern in sediments, fish and other aquatic resources. Activities during 1974 - 1976. (See Task "D" Reports)

Task C Details: Task C is described as, "Intensive studies of a small number of representative watersheds, as selected and conducted to permit some extrapolation of data to the entire Great Lakes Basin, and to relate contamination of water quality, which may be found at river mouths on the Great Lakes to specific land uses and practices". There were four primary activities under Task C, which are outlined below:

Activity 1: (Canada) of Task C called for "Pilot Agricultural Watershed Surveys". The objective of this activity was "to obtain data on the inputs of pollutants into the Great Lakes Drainage System which have their origins in the complex land use activities known as agriculture".

The Agricultural Watershed Studies consisted of the monitoring of 11 small (20-70 km2) agricultural basins selected to represent major agricultural regions in southern Ontario, and included a number of detailed studies in six of these. Descriptions of these studies may be found in the Detailed Study Plan, Agricultural Watershed Studies, Task C Activity 1, Canada, October 1975. During the final phase of the program, individuals were identified as "integrators" responsible for compiling information related to main parameter group (i.e. phosphorus, nitrogen, sediments, heavy metals and pesticides) and for livestock sources.

The Agricultural Watershed Studies (Task C - Activity 1 (Canada)) developed into a three-phase program with objectives as follows:

Phase I (Monitoring):

  1. To measure the ambient concentration and loading rates for various potential pollutants that occur with agricultural land use.

Phase II (Detailed Studies):

  1. To determine the effects of the soil, land use and associated practices on ambient concentrations and loading rates of selected pollutants from agriculture.

  2. To derive information on the mechanics of transport and storage of these pollutants within the selected agricultural watersheds.

  3. To develop relationships so that the information derived can be utilized in a predictive sense and extrapolated to other areas.

Phase III (Remedial Measures):

  1. To develop remedial measures where significant problems are identified.

Activity 2:    Forested Watershed Surveys. See Detailed Study Plan and Progress Report by J. A. Nicolson, Great Lakes Forest Research Centre, Environment Canada

Activity 3:  "Study of pollution and the adequacy of controls related to urban land development and use, transportation and utility systems, sanitary landfill, processed organic waste disposal, wastewater lagoons and irrigation systems, landfill, extractive industries, private waste disposal and recreational land use".

Activity 4:  "To determine the levels and quantities of major and trace constituents including nutrients, pesticides and sediments, reaching the Great Lakes".





Canadian Sub-Group 9: Pollution from Agricultural, Forestry and Conservation Sources. (Jan. 1971)
  Canada-US Joint Working Group on Great Lakes Pollution.  [1254 KB pdf]

Agricultural Pollution of the Great Lakes Basin (July, 1971) Combined Report by Canada and the United States  [1756 KB]

Task Force Report for Implementation of the Great Lakes Water Quality Program (1973) Agriculture Canada. 
(detailed discussion of issues with tables & figures)
Section 1: Pesticides [1063 KB pdf]
Section 2: Fertilizer Nutrients and Animal Husbandry Operations [3068 KB pdf]


Environmental Management Strategy for the Great Lakes System:
Final PLUARG Report to IJC
(July 1978)
  • More details of the PLUARG Program and its various activities and proposed budgets are available in the Detailed Study Plan (1974) [1003 KB pdf].
  • The PLUARG Annotated Bibliography [409 KB pdf] is another useful source of project information.



Pollution In The Great Lakes Basin From Land Use Activities (Mar. 1980) [1139 KB]. An IJC Report to the Governments of the United States and Canada. [IJC:ID500.pdf]. ( SEE: IJC Report List on P.119) Summary Report (17 p) (82 KB) [IJC:ID501.pdf]

Phosphorus Management for the Great Lakes: Final Report of the P Management Strategies Task Force. (July, 1980). G.R. Rohlich & D.J. O'Connor.  [680 KB pdf]

Post-PLUARG Evaluation of Great Lakes Water Quality Management Studies (Sept. 1980)
  Vol. 1 (166 pp) [5953 KB pdf]; 
  Vol. 2 (150 pp) [4424 KB pdf], Rose Ann Sullivan et al., Great Lakes Commission, Ann Arbor, MI.

Supplemental PLUARG Report:  On Phosphorus Management Strategies". IJC, January, 1981. [55 KB]

Factors Affecting Suitability Of On-farm Remedial Measures For Non-point Pollution Control In The Canadian Great Lakes Basin. 1982. C. Pharo. Upper Thames River Cons. Authority [938 KB]

Nonpoint Source Pollution Abatement in the Great Lakes Basin: An Overview of Post-PLUARG Developments. (August, 1983).   A Report Submitted by the Nonpoint Source Control Task Force of the Water Quality Board of the International Joint Commission.[726 KB pdf]

Agricultural management practices for improved water quality in the Canadian Great Lakes Basin. 1983. K.D. Switzer-Howse, Agriculture Canada. [2017 KB]

A Review of Trends in Lake Erie Water Quality with Emphasis on the 1978-1979 Intensive Survey (June 1985) [3061 KB pdf] D.E. Rathke & C.J. Edwards. [IJC: ID650.pdf]

A conceptual Approach for the Application of Biological Indicators of Ecosystem Quality in the Great Lakes Basin (Mar. 1985) [1360 KB]. [IJC:ID712.pdf] IJC & Great Lakes Fishery Commission.

Relationships Between Land Use and Water Quality in Southwestern Ontario. (1986). Gartner Lee Assoc.,  for O.M.E.  [2400 KB]

Nonpoint Sources of Pollution to the Great Lakes Basin (Based on Findings of a Workshop to Assess the Status of Nonpoint Source Pollution Control in the Great Lakes Basin, Toledo, OH, Sept. 16-18, 1998). Workgroup on Parties Implementation, Great Lakes Science Advisory Board. February 2000 [pdf]



Great Lakes Water Quality Documents

Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement 2012 Update (first signed in 1972 and renewed in 1978)
  See also:


Links to Other Archived Environmental Reports
  1. Archive Library

  2. Federal & Misc. Environmental Reports

  3. M.O.E.-Funded Reports

  4. ManureNet Digital LIbrary


Related Links


  1. About the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, IJC, Windsor, ON
  2. The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement 2012,  IJC, Windsor, ON
  3. Review of the Canada–U.S. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (2007) [pdf]; - collaboration between the USEPA and Environment Canada to provide a single window on joint Great Lakes programs.
  4. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement 2012 Update (Environment Canada).
  5. 12th Biennial Report on Great Lakes Water Quality (Sept. 2004). IJC, Windsor, ON
  6. Nonpoint Sources of Pollution to the Great Lakes Basin [pdf] (2000) (Based on Findings of Workshop to Assess the Status of Nonpoint Source Pollution Control in the Great Lakes Basin, Toledo, Ohio, September 16-18, 1998
  7. United States Response to Recommendations in the International Joint Commission's 12th Biennial Report on Great Lakes Water Quality  (Oct. 2005) - US Dept. of State & US EPA, Great Lakes National Program Office. [PDF].
  8. Lake Erie Total Phosphorus Loading Analysis and Update: 1996–2002. Quality Assurance Project Plan, David M. Dolan, and Kevin P. McGunagle, U. of Wisc.,Green Bay, Green Bay, WI 54311. 
  9. The Secrets Behind PLUARG, Sara Moore, IJC, Windsor, ON; (186 KB pdf)
  10. Linking Science and Policy for Urban Nonpoint Source Pollution in the Great Lakes Region (Nov. 2002). Contact: Dr. Stephen Bocking, Environmental and Resource Studies Program, Trent University ( (PDF Version 356 KB) (Section III makes extensive references to PLUARG)
  11. A Proposed Framework for Developing Indicators of Ecosystem Health for the Great Lakes Region (July 1991) [1210 KB pdf] (IJC:ID1049.pdf); Council of Great Lakes Research Managers Report to Int'l Joint Commission.
  12. Planning sediment monitoring programs using a watershed model.(1992). W.T. Dickinson, R.P. Rudra, D. N. Sharma & S.M. Ahmed. U. of Guelph, ON. Erosion & Sediment Transport Monitoring Programs in River Basins (Proc. of the Oslo Symp., August 1992). IAHS Publ. no. 210.
  13. Agriculture in the Great Lakes Basin – Stewardship and Innovation  (OMAFRA)
  14. An Evaluation of Water Resource Monitoring Efforts in Support of Agricultural Stewardship in Watersheds of the Great Lakes Basin. (Feb. 2009) [312 KB pdf] Submitted to OMAFRA, Great Lakes Program.
  15. Control of water pollution from agriculture - FAO irrigation and drainage paper 55. (1996). Edwin D. Ongley, Canada Centre for Inland Waters, Burlington, Canada. Pub. by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome,
  16. The Great Lakes: An Environmental Atlas and Resource Book.U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  17. Shaping Water Quality Decisions: An Evaluation of a Public Consultation Programme. (1983). A.P. Grima. Water International : 8 (3), 120 - 126.
  18. The International Joint Commission and Public Participation: Past Experiences, Present Challenges, Future Tasks. (1993). (Abstract only)  Natural Resources J. 33:235-274  Mimi Larsen Becker, U. of New Hampshire.
  19. Great Lakes Science and Policy Symposium, Nov. 6-8, 2001. Discussion Papers. IJC.


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