Friday, March 11, 2011

The Watershed: Save my Lake

Friday's subject for the "Save my Lake" series here at Progressive Winnipeg is the Lake Winnipeg watershed.

Before we start, we need to ask "what is a watershed?"

Watershed: Entire region drained by a waterway into a lake or reservoir. (Elements of Ecology, Smith and Smith, 2003)

Going back to the above image, it means that all of the water inside the orange "watershed" area, will eventually end up in Lake Winnipeg. It might, for example, start off as a rainstorm, then water running off a field into a creek, then the creek empties into the Little Saskatchewan River, then the Little Sask empties into the Assiniboine River, then the Assiniboine empties into the Red River and then...the Red River empties into Delta Marsh at Lake Winnipeg.

The Lake Winnipeg Watershed covers a massive, massive region. From just East of the Rockies, all the way to the Canadian Shield landscape, ending just West of Thunder Bay.

When we talk about runoff from farmers fields, or sewage treatment, when we talk about implementing any kind of strategy to help slow the flow of human-created wastes into the lake, we need to realize that it isn't JUST the Red River. It isn't JUST the City of Winnipeg. As producer Paul Kemp says in the podcast, "if you flush your toilet in Banff, it eventually makes it's way to Lake Winnipeg."

Of course this doesn't mean that we can shift blame to other provinces or cities. The priorities for us as Manitobans haven't changed: sewage output into the Red River from Winnipeg remains one of the most important issues we need to address. Agriculture in Manitoba also remains a high priority, because of the proximity of our agriculture to our Lake.

We as Winnipeggers and Manitobans, are familiar with the complexities of dealing with issues that fall outside our own border. Devil's Lake may come to mind. Devil's Lake lies inside the Watershed region. But two forces come together in a delicate situation. Us on one side, protecting the interests of our waterways and lakes, and "them" on the other side, who face a different problem or perhaps something that they do not view as a problem.

City wastes and agricultural runoff from the entire prairie region east of the Rockies, it all ends up here, in our province, in our Lake. Coupled with the widespread loss of wetlands across the prairies, the situation is looking a little grim.

But it isn't all bad news. Many programs are starting to get underway. In partnership with Ducks Unlimited, and Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS) as well as others, are promoting the maintenance of wetland on farm property or the restoration of historical wetlands. In attempt to restore some of what has been lost over the couple centuries worth of land drainage.

And locally, you can go to the wonderful and amazing Oak Hammock Marsh (and take your camera!). Inside the city, you can visit Fort Whyte. Both are excellent education centres that focus on the function of wetlands.

Hopefully this discussion about the Lake Winnipeg Watershed will help you realize the scope and scale in which we are talking about when we discuss environmental issues that relate to Lake Winnipeg.

1 comment:

Marty said...

I know I had no idea the watershed extended to the Rockies.