The Government of Manitoba will take the steps necessary to save Lake Winnipeg, Premier Greg Selinger announced today, concluding Dr. Peter Leavitt’s five-year study of the lake.

Leavitt’s study of Lake Winnipeg, commissioned by the province, is a comprehensive report that establishes a benchmark for restoring the health of the lake. “Dr. Leavitt’s research spells it out clearly: Lake Winnipeg is at risk and that’s why we’ll do what it takes to save it,” said the premier.

Leavitt’s study recommends a 50 per cent reduction in phosphorous levels to reverse regular algae blooms and return the lake to a pre-1990 state.

“Phosphorous levels in the lake are now worse than they were in Lake Erie when people were describing that lake as dead,” said Leavitt, Canada Research chair in environmental change and society, department of biology, University of Regina. “We’re at a tipping point and if something isn’t done now, the consequences will be dire.”

Increased phosphorous levels are entering the lake from livestock farming, pollution from cities and through wetland loss.

“It’s the challenge of the next decade,” said Dr. David Schindler, Killam professor of ecology, department of biological sciences, University of Alberta. Schindler commended the premier and his government for taking an aggressive “phosphorus-first” approach to meet the targets. “It’s a bold and necessary move,” he said.

“Large reductions in phosphorus loading are necessary to save Lake Winnipeg and for Manitoba’s sustainable development,” said Dr. Hank Venema, director of the International Institute for Sustainable Development’s (IISD’s) Water Innovation Centre. “Like potash, phosphorus is an increasingly scarce and strategic resource essential to world food security, which should be intercepted, recycled and transformed into high-value products rather than allowed to foul Lake Winnipeg.” (Read more about IISD’s bioeconomy pilot project here.)

“We all have a part to play if we’re going to stop the death of Lake Winnipeg;  the stakes are just too high,” said Selinger, who promised to reveal the province’s strategy in the coming days.


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