June 2, 2011
PREMIER UNVEILS PLAN TO SAVE LAKE WINNIPEG
The Government of Manitoba will take new action to protect the province’s water and save Lake Winnipeg, Premier Greg Selinger announced today.
“The stakes are too high and the time to take action is now,” said Selinger. “Lake Winnipeg is one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world and it’s in trouble. We must take the steps necessary to preserve the lake and make it safe for generations of Manitobans to enjoy.”
The premier unveiled the plan to save the lake following the release on Tuesday of a report that clearly shows the lake is at risk. The five-year study, commissioned by the province, recommends a 50 per cent reduction in phosphorous levels to reverse regular algae blooms and return the lake to a pre-1990 state.
The report shows phosphorous levels in Lake Winnipeg are three times higher than they were in Lake Erie when that lake was described as dead. The call to cut phosphorous levels in the Lake is echoed in the ongoing work of Dr. Greg McCullough of the University of Manitoba.
“The facts couldn’t be clearer. The health of Lake Winnipeg can’t return to what it once was without a significant cut in phosphorous levels and there’s simply no time to delay,” said McCullough.
Increased phosphorous is entering the lake from livestock farming, pollution from cities and wetland loss. Selinger said the Manitoba government will immediately focus on three key areas to reduce the pollutants that put the lake’s water at risk.
1. Keeping hog manure out of the lake by:
“Allowing the hog industry to expand without limit would put our rivers and lakes at risk,” said Dr. David Schindler, Killam professor of ecology, department of biological sciences, University of Alberta. “If hog operations can’t control their manure effectively, they should not be allowed to expand. Similarly, care must be taken to ensure that run-off of synthetic fertilizers does not reach the lake.”
2. Modernizing sewage treatment in Winnipeg and throughout Manitoba by:
“Phosphorus is regarded as the noxious pollutant responsible for fouling Lake Winnipeg,” said Dr. Henry Venema, director, International Institute for Sustainable Development’s Water Innovation Centre. “However, like potash, phosphorus is also a strategic resource essential to world food security and it should be captured, recycled and transformed into high-value products. Every waste‑water treatment plant in the world should be designed to maximize phosphorus recycling. BNR is the international standard for ensuring that phosphorus is returned to the land to grow the food we need.”
3. Protecting Manitoba’s wetlands by:
“This move recognizes that Manitoba’s Boreal peatlands are amongst the most carbon-rich wetlands in the world and taking action to protect them is the smart thing to do,” said Larry Innes, executive director, Canadian Boreal Initiative.
The premier said these actions will take Manitoba in the direction necessary to meet the target of a 50 per cent reduction in phosphorous levels in Lake Winnipeg.
“We all have a part to play if we’re going save the lake,” said Selinger. “Our lakes and rivers are a big part of what makes this province such a great place for Manitoba families to live, work and play. We must protect our waterways now for future generations.”
“Lake Winnipeg's enormous watershed spans four provinces and two countries and I commend the province of Manitoba for committing to a 50 per cent reduction in phosphorus loading to the lake to control algal blooms,” said Dr. Robert Hecky, a professor of Lake Ecology, University of Minnesota - Duluth and a Canadian commissioner on the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. “Accomplishing this reduction will require co-operative action by governments and stakeholders throughout the basin to accomplish this goal and ensure a sustainable future for one of North America's great lakes.”
Water-quality experts have also recommended the province review additional measures towards meeting the 50 per cent phosphorous reduction target. As a result, the province will:
Selinger said, in the coming year, the province will host an international summit to bring together stakeholders and levels of government throughout the Lake Winnipeg watershed to co-ordinate phosphorous reductions.
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BACKGROUND INFORMATION ATTACHED