Beyond the obvious proximity to the five Great Lakes, what makes a region? The Midwest has its own stereotypes – the Rust Belt has become a popular term for northern post-industrial cities – but perhaps the draw of the Earth’s bounty of freshwater is more meaningful?
Aside from the cultural influence of the lakes, the Great Lakes region is a combination of environmental science, politics and economy.
The Great Lakes watershed, also called the Great Lakes Basin, contains 84% of the surface freshwater in North America and 21% of the surface freshwater in the whole world.
The basin stretches 750 miles east to west encompassing 10% of the U.S. population and 30% of the Canadian population. In 1955, the Great Lakes Compact formed the Great Lakes Commission in order to preserve and protect the vast water resources of the Great Lakes. Eight U.S. states make up the voting members of the Great Lakes Commission, with Ontario and Quebec holding non-voting seats.
The economic reach of the Great Lakes mega-region as defined by the Regional Plan Association utilized population density and population growth data to identify significant regions. The Great Lakes mega-region includes over 55.5 million people, or nearly 20% of the U.S. population.
Take a closer look at the map here:
(Map created by Alex Hill for Great Lakes Now)Editor’s Note: A correction was made on Sept. 16, 2021, to reflect that both Ontario and Quebec hold non-voting seats in the Great Lakes Commission.