From its role in facilitating the industrialization of Windsor and Detroit to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and its designation as an Area of Concern, the Detroit River has a rich and vibrant story to tell. 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; connecting Lakes Superior, Michigan, and Huron to the St. Lawrence Seaway. The River is designated an American Heritage River and a Canadian Heritage River, the only river 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. These environmental issues have been identified as being related to, or the cause of, the impairment of several beneficial uses. The 1970s and 1980s saw the development of a massive conservation effort aimed at cleaning up the Detroit River.
The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA) between Canada and the United States, first signed in 1972, commits both countries to protect and restore the Great Lakes Ecosystem. The Detroit River Canadian Cleanup implements the Remedial Action Plan on behalf of a community-based partnership between the government (federal, provincial, municipal), local industries, researchers, environmental organizations, and citizens working together to protect, restore, and enhance the Detroit River ecosystem.