There are over 100,000 lakes are in Manitoba, and there is growing concern over the excess nutrients in the Lake Winnipeg watershed. The watershed is among the top 10 largest watersheds in North America, and the lake itself is the 10th largest in the world by surface area.

Manitoba’s lakes have changed drastically over the last 10 years, said Alexis Kanu and Dimple Roy of the Lake Winnipeg Foundation (LWF) and the International Institute for Sustainable Development, respectively.

Of specific concern to Kanu and Roy are excess nutrients in the Lake Winnipeg watershed. “Essential to life in the correct amounts, too much can lead to potentially harmful algae blooms that foul beaches, impact drinking water and result in low-oxygen conditions unsuitable for fish and other aquatic life,” said Kanu and Roy in a Winnipeg Free Press opinion piece.

The provincial government has said on it website that it is undertaking “considerable water quality work … to better understand [the lake’s] existing condition, and to develop a water quality model to assist with managing inputs of nutrients.”

Kanu and Roy argue that a “systematic monitoring process” providing “robust data” is the best practice to avoid “spending tax dollars inefficiently” and combat excess nutrient flow.

In its newsletter for spring and summer 2016, the LWF stated that, “82 per cent of Manitobans believe that provincial leadership in protecting Lake Winnipeg is necessary before other jurisdictions in the watershed will follow suit”and 80 per cent favour strict regulations to protect wetlands, “as well as immediate action to upgrade Winnipeg’s wastewater treatment system.”

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Current monitoring of the Lake Winnipeg is handled by the Lake Winnipeg Research Consortium, but Kanu and Roy argue that a more formal and collaborative system is needed to monitor the watershed and protect against excess nutrients.

More information on Lake Winnipeg can be found on the Province of Manitoba’s website. And an informative video on the Lake Winnipeg watershed is available here.

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