The first research chair in water quality is to be established at the University of Manitoba through a provincial commitment of $1.25 million, the province’s Water Stewardship Minister Christine Melnick announced Tuesday.“As we mark Earth Day and reflect on Manitoba’s role as a leader in water stewardship, we are moving ahead with development of new research capabilities that will lead to innovations in water quality management to improve the health of our lakes and rivers, and perhaps water everywhere,” said Melnick. “This new initiative will fill a critical gap in watershed science and builds upon our firm commitment to restore the health of Lake Winnipeg.”

This new capability will ensure critical expertise is developed in water quality and watershed sciences, the minister said. It will be a key building block in the establishment of a watershed research institute at the University of Manitoba that will facilitate strong linkages between a number of related university institutions, government and private-sector researchers, she also noted.

“Developing knowledge and new technologies for effective water management is a very important part of Manitoba’s new climate change legislation,” said Science, Technology, Energy and Mines Minister Jim Rondeau. “Now that we have announced our future climate goals, we need to put in place the experts who can help us make well-informed water management decisions.”

This new research capability was recommended by the Lake Winnipeg Stewardship Board and was also identified in the recent Manitoba Clean Environment Commission’s report on environmental sustainability of the hog sector. There is a clear need to develop expertise to better understand how nitrogen and phosphorus, the nutrients responsible for algal blooms, are transferred with water from the flat prairie landscape, to adjacent lakes and rivers, and what measures would work best to prevent these issues, Rondeau said.

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“University of Manitoba researchers are investigating water from virtually every angle, from floods and storms, to droughts and sea ice. Whether they are studying the effects of climate change on aquatic ecosystems, or developing new ways to treat waste water and harness the energy of fast flowing rivers, some of our very best minds are focused on our planet’s most vital resource,” said Dr. Emõke J.E. Szathmáry, president and vice-chancellor, University of Manitoba. “The funding for the establishment of this new research chair in water quality and watershed sciences will fill a critical gap in current knowledge and allow for the development of new expertise in nitrogen and phosphorus movement – the very real problems that these chemicals cause our waterways.”

The provincial support of $1.25 million will be spread over five years and is being provided by Manitoba Science, Technology, Energy and Mine’s Research and Innovation Fund. This is a key initiative for supporting research, development and innovation in the province, said Rondeau.

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