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usa_gov_logo_nyreblog_com_.gifThe Great Lakes are a collection of freshwater lakes that span more than 750 miles in eastern North America, on the Canada/United States border. The lakes form the largest surface freshwater system on Earth . They contain about 84 percent of North America's surface fresh water and about 21 percent of the world's supply; only the polar ice caps contain more fresh water. These vast inland lakes provide water for consumption, transportation, power , recreation  and a host of other uses.

The Great Lakes are:

  1. Lake Superior - the largest lake by volume; it is also the deepest and coldest of the five.
  2. Lake Michigan - the second largest lake by volume, and the only Great Lake entirely within the United States.
  3. Lake Huron - the third largest lake by volume, and includes the Georgian Bay.
  4. Lake Ontario - the fourth largest lake by volume; it is smaller in area, but deeper than Lake Erie.
  5. Lake Erie - the smallest lake by volume, and the shallowest.

The Great Lakes are sensitive to the effects of a wide range of pollutants, such as toxic and nutrient pollution , invasive species , and habitat degradation. Sources of pollution include the runoff of soils and farm chemicals from agricultural lands, waste from cities, discharges from industrial areas and leakage from disposal sites.

Within the United States, the Great Lakes Interagency Task Force (IATF) brings together the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  and other federal agencies to coordinate the restoration and management activities of the Great Lakes basin. These agencies administer more than 140 federal programs that help fund and implement environmental restoration. The EPA also works with state governments , Canada , Tribal Nations , and other organizations to keep the Great Lakes clean and healthy.

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