Great Lakes, Great Cities

We’re supporting local partnerships to protect water and communities.

Great Lakes communities depend on the lakes for drinking water, jobs, and recreation. Local decisions can have a big impact on the health of the lakes and people. 

Local zoning determines which neighborhoods – and which waters – bear the burdens of industrial pollution. Local stormwater management plans impact basement sewage backups, and sewage overflows into the nearest lake or river. Fixing water infrastructure can reduce the number of lead pipes bringing drinking water into people’s homes. But it can also result in rates that are unaffordable for many residents. 

How we work locally

First, we listen. We work with communities to understand their priorities, identify opportunities to collaborate, and lift up issues that matter most to residents. 

We partner with community organizations, local environmental groups, city staff, and local elected officials. Environmental justice is a guiding principle: we focus on elevating voices historically underrepresented or excluded. 

Local partners tell us how our skills and resources can make the biggest impact. 

What we bring to the table

Research is one of the resources we contribute to local partnerships. In Detroit, for example, we developed five new case studies. They showcased cities that successfully implemented green and gray stormwater infrastructure, with a focus on the public rights-of-way (streets). In Chicago, we worked with local partners to create the Calumet Databook. It’s a resource to help guide policy and planning in the Calumet River Industrial Corridor. The databook has helped give local leaders a bigger seat at the table for making future decisions.  

Network building and peer exchanges are another important aspect of our local partnership work. For example, we’re bringing together a Great Lakes network of small and big groups who work on water issues. We’ll support their work to create a federal and state drinking water advocacy strategy. 

Local partners also inform the Alliance’s state and federal strategies, such as our annual Great Lakes Federal Policy Priorities.