Posted by: Vicki Burns | June 8, 2010

Wetlands Nature’s Kidneys – What the R.M. of Dufferin is Doing to Protect Them

One of the new things I’ve learned since being involved in water work is the tremendous value of wetlands in keeping our freshwater clean. I’ve heard scientists from Ducks Unlimited refer to wetlands as nature’s kidneys. They actually filter out much of the excess phosphorus and nitrogen that cause the blooms of toxic blue – green algae that are taking over many of our water bodies. The plant life, like cattails and bulrushes, that grow in wetlands take up nutrients as they grow. There are other very positive benefits that wetlands give to the natural world as well.

image of marsh with water in the background

Wetlands at Water's Edge

So if you were told that almost 70% of your kidney function had been lost I think you’d be very concerned. Alarmingly, this is what we’re learning about wetland loss across the Prairies. Almost 70 % of wetlands have been drained over the past few decades, in order to cultivate land or develop it for residential use. If we want to restore our waterways to better health, we’re going to have to repair much of that wetland loss. 

The R.M. of Dufferin in Manitoba has taken very positive steps in encouraging their landowners to leave wetlands in place or to return previously drained wetlands to their former state. They have committed $10,000 a year for the next 3 years to pay landowners to do this and the  LaSalle Redboine Conservation District has contributed an additional $5000 per year to the pot.

Fred Dunn, one of the councillors for Dufferin who pushed for this initiative, explained it to me another way “ We’re flood proofing to the east of us and drought proofing to the west by holding water in place for a longer time”. What a great example of a local government putting money into prevention!

I’d like to see more concrete actions like this from governments, municipal through to provincial to federal. Do you agree?


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