The purpose of these Categories is to help people focus and find their voice – or the voices of others. They work like labels or tags so you can choose any number and combination of them that support your unique Report. 

Take a look at the notes below that add some ideas on what your description could include. Adding related photos, videos, and web links always helps with context and making connections.  Remember this is a dialogue, so please share new ideas, questions, and invitations for participation. 


What is being done to heal our relationship with the lakes and their overall health? What does water stewardship look like? These Reports are about one-day events and ceremonies and longer campaigns and education efforts. Describe what is going on, who’s doing the work, and what the goals and intentions are. Share any related photos, videos, news, or websites that give more information and context.

If you are doing a journey on or around the waters, use the Water Journey's category.

If you are participating in the Great Lakes Commons Currency project, use the Currency of Care category. 

Some actions to consider: conserving, stocking, researching, advocating, educating, praying, revering, blessing, defending, planting, sharing, connecting, monitoring, and more!

8 principles for commons


The Great Lakes are harmed from many new and old threats. Below are some suggested subcategories that will shift as the Commons Map evolves. They also highlight some important issues for our Great Lakes. Short general overview HERE.

Oil Pipelines: Line 9 is currently undergoing review and resistance. Line 9 feeds the development of the Alberta Tar Sands and threaten major water sources across Southern Ontario (through spills) and the entire Great Lakes (through carbon-releasing climate change). Share important locations, points of interest, and concerns. See HERE for more information.

Nuclear Energy: Consuming vast amounts of cold water and fish, these reactors threaten lake temperatures and aquatic life. They also produce toxic waste that need safe storage for millions of years. Share important locations, campaigns, and concerns. See HERE for more information.

Fracking: Hydraulic Fracturing contaminates water, while trying to access deep deposits of shale gas – another fossil fuel. Some States and Provinces have moratoriums on the process, while some communities experiment with this controversial energy source. Share important locations, campaigns, and concerns. See HERE for more information.

Invasive Species: Many non-native aquatic species (asian carp, zebra muscles, sea lampreys, etc) have come to the Great Lakes and destabilize the ecosystem. Share important locations, campaigns, and concerns. See HERE for more information.

Pollution: A general category (for now) that focuses on water contamination from agricultural, industrial, commercial, residential, pharmaceutical, and transportation sources. Share important locations, campaigns, and concerns. See HERE for more information.

Bottled Water: While not a source of pollution, bottled water is the opposite of a water commons. Being commercialized, privatized, wasteful, and energy intensive – bottled water is all bad news for how we think about and use water. For corporations, water is seen as a commodity to be sold and used as property.  As a commons, water is a human right, a finite gift, and what makes Earth unique in the universe for supporting life. Share the locations of where water is bottled, by who, at what ecological cost, and the citizen campaigns that are fighting these corporations. See HERE for more information.

Climate Change: The new norm is sadly climate change and this affects lake levels, habitat, and water temperature and chemistry. Share important locations, campaigns, and concerns. See HERE for more information.

Stories & Places

This Category is to mark our shared commons on the map. These can be stories, water features, governing practices, the legacy of our shared Areas of Concern, or whatever else you would prefer.

Personal Stories: Tell us about your discoveries, memories, and curiosities. This is our cultural commons and needs to be shared. Stories are powerful and the Commons Map is perfect for using photos and videos to showcase your unique story.

Water Commons: Tell us about our beaches, aquifers, lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams and help us connect to their beauty and fragility. Mark where you get your water from, where it gets treated, and the largely invisible water infrastructure that gifts 40 million people with their Great Lakes drinking water.

Areas of Concern: The Canadian and American governments have officially declared 43 areas within the Great Lakes basin that are severely contaminated and degraded. Economic growth has come at a tremendous cost. There are 26 Areas in the USA, 12 in Canada, and 5 that are shared in common. The legacy of these Areas can teach us an historical lesson in water stewardship, if we choose to learn. In 25 years, these same governments have ‘delisted’ (not restored) 4 of these Areas and the future of these Areas (like the entire Great Lakes watershed) will be determined by our insight, respect, and commitments today. Share important locations, campaigns, and concerns. See HERE for more information.

Governing Agencies: While we are re-writing the Social Charter for the Great Lakes, many agencies and policies currently guide their protection and restoration. Knowing who is responsible for what (Conservation Authorities, State Parks, government Ministries or Departments, Municipal Offices, etc) and how to get in touch with these agencies is key for reclaiming our Great Lakes stewardship. Governments hold these waters in Trust for their citizens and First Nations Treaties also regulate responsibility. We have allowed governments to manage the water, but they do not own it nor can they grant access or use without public consent. Share important locations, campaigns, and concerns.