Water quality of the near shore waters of Lake Erie in the Cleveland area and of the Cuyahoga, Rocky and Chagrin Rivers was investigated from September 1971 through December 1972 to establish a baseline by which to plan and measure the restorative value of water pollution abatement programs. Seven major investigations by the City of Cleveland and a consortium of three universities dealt with fish populations, phytoplankton, zooplankton, benthic organisms, benthic sediment chemistry, water chemistry, cation reactions with the suspended river sediments, and hydrodynamic modeling of river and thermal discharge flow into Lake Erie. Correlation of point sources and of land use with water quality was shown. Changes in game fish populations since the 1950's from predominantly high to predominantly low food value species were clearly demonstrated. An extensive bibliography is included. A framework for management of water quality through system approaches is presented.