Lake Winnipeg has recently earned a special designation, though far from a favourable one.
The Global Nature Fund (GNF), a non-profit, private foundation for the protection of the environment and nature, based out of Germany, has dubbed Manitoba’s Lake Winnipeg “Threatened Lake of the Year 2013,” surpassing every other lake in the world.
According to GNF, Canada’s third largest freshwater lake is in serious trouble. “Despite relatively low populations in the Lake Winnipeg watershed…nutrients in agricultural run-off and sewage discharges threaten Lake Winnipeg’s future by stimulating large amounts of blue-green algae that imbalance the lake’s food web and can be toxic to humans,” says the organization.
“This is a wake-up call for all of us Manitobans,” said Vicki Burns, outreach coordinator for the Lake Winnipeg Foundation (LWF), in a recent release. While this disturbing designation is a clear indication that the world is now watching, “It’s not the world that will bring it back to health,” Burns said. “It’s up to all of us in Manitoba to take the most important steps.”
However, politically, there are some difficulties. While the lake itself is located in Manitoba, it is fed by a number of rivers, such as the Saskatchewan, Red, Winnipeg, and Assiniboine, and its watershed covers Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario, as well as the United States’ North Dakota and South Dakota. While the LWF has been involved in protecting the lake’s ecosystem since 2006, Burns said the vastness of the Lake Winnpeg watershed—which spans nearly one million square kilometers—is a definite factor in the decline of the lake, and still, not a valid excuse.
“The good news is that our scientists and committed groups like Ducks Unlimited, Manitoba Conservation Districts, Lake Friendly, MEIA, and IISD are willing and ready to get going on solutions to help the lake,” Burns said.
In an attempt to draw public attention to the progressive destruction of rivers and lakes like this, the Global Nature Fund has been selecting a “Threatened Lake of the Year” on February 2, World Wetland Day, since 2004. Last year, a lake from Peru held the designation, while a lake in Columbia held it in 2011.