For several years, the City of Winnipeg, the Rural Municipality of Rosser, and the Province of Manitoba have been struggling over the question of how to extend water piping into the CentrePort development, which straddles the border between Winnipeg and Rosser. In 2011, the province, city, and rural municipality announced a $17-million agreement with CentrePort for the development of a large scale industrial park, which would need to be hooked up to Winnipeg’s water system.

A bobbing marker at the Shoal Lake intake area. Credit: Kerry Freek

Winnipeg draws its water from Shoal Lake, and has since the early 1900s. However, according to regulations put in place at the time that Winnipeg was originally granted permission to draw water from the lake, the city is not allowed to sell water to neighbouring municipalities. Two First Nations communities on Shoal Lake have raised a legal challenge to Winnipeg’s plan to pipe water into the CentrePort development, citing this nearly hundred-year-old agreement. The International Joint Commission has sided with the two Ojibwa bands, acknowledging that Winnipeg is not able to pipe water into Rosser.

Because of the legal complexity of the situation, Winnipeg is now considering annexing the portion of the development that currently lies in Rosser. This move would theoretically allow Winnipeg to avoid violating any standing agreements. However, the plan also depends heavily on Rosser’s cooperation, which is far from guaranteed: a similar plan was laid out in 2009, but Rosser rejected it.

Read more about Winnipeg and Shoal Lake in Water Canada’s May/June 2013 issue.

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