The Great Lakes system is a series of five large connected lakes, one small lake, four connecting channels, and the St. Lawrence Seaway. The five large lakes are Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario. They hold about 18% of the world's freshwater and about 90% of the freshwater in the United States. Forty million U.S. and Canadian citizens depend on this system for clean drinking water.
Freshwater education resources
Although NOAA is known for its work in marine habitats, the agency has resource management, stewardship, research, and monitoring responsibilities for many freshwater ecosystems. NOAA satellites monitor the water supply for the planet, mapping snow and ice fields and providing predictions of where, when, and in what volume water for drinking and agriculture will be available. River level forcasts are a key component of the agency's mission to protect life and property as well as manage navigability of waterways. Monitoring and managing the freshwater habitats of anadramous fish like the Pacific Salmon in partnership with local agencies is another key role in freshwater environments. NOAA's presence in the Great Lakes region of the U.S. represents one of the largest agency operations dealing with freshwater. Great Lake coastal zone issues, historic and ecosystem sanctuaries, freshwater estuaries, environmental monitoring, and fishery management research are all part of NOAA's operations.
The collections in this thematic area are designed to assist the educator in teaching concepts and processes related to freshwater environments and to increase stewardship of these important resources.
Like the accompanying diagram, the water cycle is often shown and taught as a simple circular cycle. Although this can be a useful model, students should understand that the reality is very different.
The water in your watershed quenches thirst, grows food, washes clothes, and powers industry. However, too much water can cause raging floods and flush pollutants and soil into rivers and streams. How do we interact with the water in our watershed?