Posted by: Vicki Burns | October 3, 2010

Lake Winnipeg Needs Bold and Gutsy Action

Last Wednesday I attended a meeting of the Lake Winnipeg Foundation at which Dr. Hank Venema, from IISD, was the guest speaker. Hank is the director of the IISD’s newly created Water Innovation Centre. I was impressed with one of the themes of his talk which was that we now have to demonstrate the same “bold and gutsy” actions that some of our forefathers did in the last century related to water. 

Hank cited 2 examples in Manitoba, the creation of Duff’s ditch (formally known as the Red River Floodway around Winnipeg) and the building of the Shoal Lake aqueduct to bring drinking water to the city of Winnipeg. Both of these projects were completed amidst significant criticism and great expense. However decades later we’re very grateful for the wisdom of those who pursued their construction. 

aerial image of Red River floodway

Aerial view of the Red River Floodway

 

Hank was promoting the idea that we have to think outside the box to turn the significant problems of blue-green algae in Lake Winnipeg and many other lakes across the country, into opportunities to develop  economic growth through new technologies to remove the excess phosphorus. The phosphorus that is running off our landscape and remaining in our wastewater is a precious resource that we need to make every effort to save. Why – because there is not an unlimited supply in the world and we need it to grow food. 

One big difference between what we need now and what occurred in the last century is that huge infrastructure is likely not the answer. Now we are going to have to re-think many of our agricultural and urban practices to include recognition of the power of natural processes. I’m guessing that we’ll be using concepts of Biomimicry much more in the next 50 years.
In any case, I’m sure that many of us who are concerned about working to ensure clean, fresh water now and into the future, agree that there is not a moment to waste before engaging in bold and gutsy action.

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