Posted by: Vicki Burns | February 6, 2011

Spring Floods on the Horizon for Manitoba – Is It Possible to Slow Down the Flow of Water Off the Landscape?

A few weeks ago I attended the annual conference of the Red River Basin Commission and understandably, many of the presentations were focussed on the likelihood of another spring flood in the Red River Valley. One of the presentations that caught my attention was about the goal of decreasing the flow from tributaries to the Red River by 20%. This proposal is only being worked on in the American portion of the Red River Valley but it sounds like a very practical idea.

image of car flooded in front of house

Red River Flood 2009

Yesterday I read a related article by Laura Rance in the Winnipeg Free Press which is describing the work of the Deerwood Soil and Water Management Group who have worked in the Tobacco Creek Watershed for the past 26 years. This group of farmers have created a number of small dam structures to reduce the damage from flash floods and heavy rainfalls. These structures have actually reduced peak flows by 25 % and have saved the local municipalities millions of dollars in flood damage compensation. Not only is the water slowed down during flood events but its held longer on the land for irrigation purposes. Sounds like there are several good reasons to support this type of action across our landscapes.

Lake Winnipeg also suffers with each flood event that occurs because the fast flow of water across the landscape brings with it more phosphorus and nitrogen that feed the blue-green algae blooms. Any actions that can decrease flooding will benefit not only the multitude of people living within the floodplain but also the health of the lakes that receive the floodwaters.



  1. The only way I know is by reestablising the wetlands and making the drainage ditches less straight and ensuring they are all lined with water retentive plants. Using tiled drainage in fields is only good as long as the water is recycled. If landowners take it on themselves to get rid of excess water unaturally, it can only lead to futher disaster down stream and more nutrienst ending up in the Lake.The science on the Lake will be very telling this year for sure.

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