The Canadian federal government announced the provision of $1.6 million to help restore Lake Winnipeg, considered the one of the nation’s "most endangered lakes" as excess nutrients from farming and municipal wastewater treatment impair water quality.
The Lake Winnipeg Basin Program announcement was made amid Canadian-US transboundary water management discussions at the annual conference of the Red River Basin Commission.
“Healthier lakes mean economic growth, more recreational opportunities and a healthier, sustainable ecosystem that protects biodiversity,” Environment and Climate Change Canada parliamentary secretary Terry Duguid said.
Located in the province of Manitoba, Lake Winnipeg’s water quality has declined with the increase of phosphorus and nitrogen – which cause algal blooms that reduce dissolved oxygen levels in the water and threaten wildlife.
In addition to human impacts, “climate change alters the water cycle: floods bring large slugs of nutrients into our lakes, droughts concentrate water and concentrate that pollution,” commented Duguid.
Restoration of the Lake Winnipeg drainage basin spans nearly one million square kilometers (2.47 million squares acres), where nearly seven million people reside across four provinces (Alberta to Ontario), four U.S. states (Montana to Minnesota), and several Indigenous communities.
Continuing previous investments in clean water
The funding will support 25 projects with goals to engage Indigenous stakeholders, support collaborative watershed management, and reduce nutrients in Canada’s sixth largest lake.
First Nations communities will receive aid to increase their “capacity to test and monitor water sources, while incorporating Indigenous knowledge and community decision-making into water protection.” First Nations will be able to share information and best practices among communities, national and international stakeholders.
The federal support follows past investments in studying algal blooms as well as nutrient reduction strategies and projects led by universities, research consortiums, watershed associations, First Nations, the Manitoba Métis Federation and the Lake Winnipeg Foundation.
Future commitment by the Canada Water Agency
Duguid remarked that in the near future the brand-new Canada Water Agency will be finalized. It will “help consolidate federal, provincial and international efforts in water quality and protection.”