Brief History of the LWW Initiative Concept of Thinking like a watershed – we’re all upstream of someone else, our actions impact those who are downstream Foundations undertaking actions together in strategic way can have greater impact than each of us doing our own thing.
Water – essential for all of life. Canadians are still taking it for granted according to a recent survey. Although we know that it is very precious and absolutely necessary to sustain life, we are acting as though we have unlimited supplies and don’t need to worry about whats going into it to degrade it. This picture is the image I conjure up when I think about lakes. Its in sharp contrast to the reality that is occurring in lake all across the Prairies
Sadly, this is what is an all too frequent occurrnece in lakes - blooms of blue green algae that are actualy cyanobacteria ,containing toxins very dangerous to humans and animals. Blue green algae are flourishing because of too many nutrients getting into the water – phosphorus and nitrogen.
Municipal lagoon spills in Pointe du Bois, West Hawk Lake, Stonewall, St. Pierre-Jolys, Selkirk, St. Jean Baptiste, Riverton, Winnipeg
Blue-green algae bloom in Lake Dauphin, warning to pet owners about the toxicity to animals
Algae warnings from 30 years ago. Scientists warning of need to decrease nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen) getting into lakes
The problem of too much blue green algae in lakes is called Eutrophication. It is a massive job to turn this situation around partly because of the vastness of the Lake Winnipeg Watershed. It is almost 1 million square kilometers , crossing 4 provinces and touching on 4 states.
The Eutrophication is visible on this satellite image of Manitoba. The dark green areas of the lakes are where there are significant blue green algae blooms. The large lake on the left is Lake Winnipeg and to the west of it are Lakes Winnipegosis, Manitoba, Dauphin and Cedar . They are all covered with blue green algae as well. This phenomenon is occurring all across the LWW Watershed.
Lake of the Woods is in the far right corner of the image. Large blue green bloom in the east basin of the lake
This map of Saskatchewan is divided into all the different watersheds in the province. It was part of a report done by the Saskatchewan government in 2007. The areas in Red are all the watersheds that are deemed to be impaired..The yellow ones are deemed to be stressed and the green are healthy. The province of Sask. routinely issues press releases in the summer to warn the public not to go near water that has evidence of blue-green algae blooms.
Red Deer River Watershed Health – red – high risk /poor condition; orange – medium risk/fair condition; green – low risk/good condition. Some of the indicators that are measured are wetland loss, pestcide use, phosphorus and nitrogen loads, riparian health.
Climate change – with warmer temperatures come predictions of more severe weather events like droughts, storms, lower freshwater levels. We’re already starting to see the consequences of this: There has been a loss of glacial cover in the Rockies of at least 25% in the last 100 years. The Peyto Glacier, in the upper reaches of the North Saskatchewan Basin, has lost 70% of its volume in the last 100 years. The duration of snow cover in the Rockies has declined by over one month since the early 1970’s. The South Saskatchewan River basin has suffered a decline of 15% over the last century in yearly natural flows but human consumption of water has made the real decline 40% or more in dry years. The South Saskatchewan River has been closed for any new water use licenses. Urban Development – Total human population in the Lake Winnipeg Watershed has grown from 2.5 million in 1974 to 6.6 million in 2007. It is rapidly expanding in some areas without proper planning re: water needs. For example in Alberta, High River and Strathmore will exceed the limits of their currently licensed water use by 2012, Cochrane by 2022, Canmore by 2028. Agricultural Development – Livestock numbers have grown substantially.In 1971 there were 7.4 million cattle and 4 million pigs in the Canadian portion of the LWW. In 2006 this had grown to 11.5 million cattle and 14.3 million pigs. Southern Alberta has developed irrigated lands that are drawing huge amounts of water from the Bow, the Oldman, etc. Loss of Wetlands – there has been a loss of as much as 70% of wetlands in some areas of the prairies. Wetlands can be described as nature’s kidneys, providing a wonderful natural filter for water. Wetlands have been drained primarily to make room for more agricultural production and in some cases to accommodate urban development. Industrial Development – mining, tar sands, and forestry all have important effects on water both as large users of water as well residual water quality concerns due to toxic tailings, etc.
We used intensive GIS techniques and watershed modeling to clearly understand the degradation that has occurred over a 37 year period. And here are the results……… (Click) 31% of the wetland area has been totally lost 69% of the 8700 wetland basins, almost 6000 wetlands, were lost or degraded D
Blue Green Algae Lake Wpg. – this images shows the results of too much phosphorus getting into the water .Picture taken on popular Lake Wpg. beach in August/08
A close up of the blue green algae demonstrates that it is far removed from the algae that we have seen in past years on many water bodies
The 3 main problems resulting from human activities over the past 50 years are: Blue Green Algae blooms Water Degradation making drinking water unsafe – Resulted in 1859 Boil Water Advisories across Canada in 2008. The Canadian Medical Association was so concerned they published an article about this in the Can. Medical Journal Water Quantity problems – not enough water for all users in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan. Alberta government has set a goal of 30% reduction by all water users over next few years. Sought Saskatchewan River has been closed to any new water licenses. Climate change predictions include more droughts and more floods.
Canadian Water Attitudes survey commissioned by RBC and Unilever last spring. Demonstrates gap in public’s beliefs and actual knowledge. Emphasizes the need for a great deal more public education.
3 major focii for action on the part of individuals and government authorities
Examples of grey water recycling systems that may become very common in the future.
Ecole St. Avila Ground Greening Project to deal with muddy low lying playground area in very progressive, environmentally friendly manner.Creating a wetland without the water, incorporating rain garden concept. Will become outdoor classroom for school children in the area.
Progressive wastewater treatment demonstration project in the village of Dunnottar on the west side of the Lake Winnipeg. The goal is to increase the removal of nutrients from the wastewate before it is discharged into the local creek and eventually into the lake. Filtration media being tried are mill scale, tire chunks and limestone.
Solar powered pivot irrigation system – results in 30% decrease in water use and 37% decrease in energy consumption.
The municipality of Sunshine Creek Regional District in B.C. are offering residents 2 free dual flush toilets along with free installation in order to promote water conservation.
WE hope that you will join the ever growing number of community foundations who are becoming involved in this Water initiative. Together we can have a much greater impact on protecting one of the most essential necessities for all life – WATER. Thank you for your attention and I look forward to communicating with you as we move forward.
Thank you to all these foundations who have contributed in various ways to water work and the Lake Winnipeg Watershed Initiative.
Foundations in the Lake Winnipeg Watershed Initiative WHAT IS AILING OUR RIVERS AND LAKES?
Reduce your use of phosphorus by making sure that your dishwasher detergent and any other household cleaners contain no phosphorus.
Create an environmentally friendly lawn and garden. Do not use lawn fertilizers that contain phosphorus . (xeriscaping, rain gardens, rain barrels)
Restore your shoreline to a more natural state .
4. Ensure that your septic system is in good shape, with no leaks .
What You Can Do to Help Protect Water 5. Do not flush anything down the toilet that shouldn’t traditionally go down the toilet . (eg. old prescription drugs, paints) 6. Practice water conservation. Install dual flush toilets and low flow showerheads. 7. Preserve or reconstruct wetlands. 8. Spread the word ! Tell your family and friends about these ideas to encourage more people to become responsible stewards of our precious water and lakes. 9. Let your elected officials from municipal to provincial to federal know that you care about the state of lakes and rivers and that you expect them to demonstrate political will to take action where it is required .