Posted by: Vicki Burns | December 9, 2011

St. Norbert Watershed Coalition – Helping Themselves and Lake Winnipeg

Here is a terrific example of how we can make a difference to Lake Winnipeg from within the city of Winnipeg at the same time as solving a water/drainage problem in a local community. The Drainage Inside the Dike project is the result of collaborative efforts of a number of different groups who occupy 11 hectares of flat land in St. Norbert that is subject to sitting water resulting from rain, melting snow, parking lot and building run off. This is commonly known as stormwater and around most of our city it is drained directly into our stormwater sewers. Those of us who are working on water and Lake Winnipeg issues now understand that  stormwater contributes some of the excess nutrients and pollutants that are causing water quality problems.

image of garden with native plants

Rain Garden with Native Plants

The St. Norbert Community Centre, St.Norbert Farmers’ Market, Place Saint-Norbert, Ecole Noel Ritchot and the Behavioural Health Foundation, as well as some concerned citizens have decided that they want to solve their water problems in an environmentally sustainable manner that won’t contribute further to Lake Winnipeg’s problems so they commissioned the design of the Drainage Inside the Dike project. In a nutshell, it’s a resculpting of land with berms, swales and rain gardens that will hold onto water and allow it to slowly seep into the ground instead of running off fast into the stormwater sewer system. Native plantings, such as big bluestem, black-eyed susans and buffalo grass, with their long roots, will soak up some of the phosphorus and nitrogen that we don’t want getting into our freshwater.

Janice Lukes, Coordinator of the St. Norbert Watershed Coalition, says groups need to think beyond their own property lines as water doesn’t respect those boundaries. All the groups involved are going to improve their own sites at the same time as decreasing their contribution to Lake Winnipeg’s problems. I’m excited to learn about this project because its such a good example of what we could be doing all over our landscapes to slow down water flows, decrease flood concerns and improve water quality.

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