International Day of Action for Rivers

Written by Gina Pannunzio for The Egret, Issue 35- Number 1

Aerial photo of Peche Island, showing the beginning of the Detroit River by Lake St. Clair. Photo credit: the Detroit River Canadian Cleanup.

Each year on March 14, International Day of Action for Rivers recognizes and celebrates efforts made around the world to protect and restore rivers. Globally, rivers often share boundaries with numerous jurisdictions, and this day highlights the shared goal of strengthening regional and international networks who steward these resources.

The Detroit River has served an important role in the history of the Windsor-Detroit area and is one of the busiest waterways in the world. It connects Lakes Superior, Michigan, and Huron to Lakes Erie, Ontario and the St. Lawrence Seaway. It is also designated as an American Heritage River and a Canadian Heritage River, the only river in North America to have this dual designation.

When the Windsor-Detroit area underwent rapid industrialization at the turn of the 20th century, the Detroit River became notoriously polluted. Years of extensive industrial, urban, and agricultural development along the Detroit River resulted in the historical release of harmful legacy pollutants from industry, bacteria from wastewater treatment plants, and nutrients from agricultural runoff. These environmental issues have caused the impairment of several beneficial uses. As part of the international cleanup effort, the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA) was signed between Canada and the United States in 1972, committing both countries to protect and restore the Great Lakes Ecosystem. The Detroit River was designated as an Area of Concern (AOC), which are regarded as the most environmentally degraded sites within the Great Lakes. The 1970s and 1980s saw the development of a massive conservation effort aimed at cleaning up the Detroit River.

Both the Detroit River Canadian Cleanup (DRCC) and the Friends of the Detroit River (FDR) implement separate Remedial Action Plans (RAP) for Canada and the United States. Through community-based partnership between the government (federal, provincial/state, municipal), local industries, researchers, environmental organizations, and citizens working together, the goal is to protect, restore, and enhance the Detroit River ecosystem.

Remediation efforts from both Canada and the United States in the Detroit River include sediment cleanup and remediation, habitat restoration, municipal and industrial wastewater treatment, infrastructure upgrades, non-point source pollution management, as well as a suite of ongoing studies, investigations, monitoring, research, education and outreach.

To learn more about the DRCC, FDR, and associated RAPs, please visit their websites: and respectively.