5-year fight removes less than 1% of phosphorus from Lake Winnipeg basin


After five years and millions of dollars fini, a federal program aimed at improving the health of Manitoba’s biggest lake has not quite made a dent in the levels of phosphorus fuelling toxic blue-green algae blooms.

Now, shower scientists and activists want the federal and provincial governments to take a sundry targeted approach to healing the beleaguered Lake Winnipeg.

Alexis Kanu, gubernatorial director of the Lake Winnipeg Foundation, said many members reported look after algae blooms on the lake this year.

“It’s been a really contrary summer and sad for many, but I think it’s galvanized folks, that they fancy to see action and they want to see some meaningful change on the lake,” hinted Kanu.

After spending $18 million, the amount of phosphorus participate ining the lake fell by less than 1%. – Lake Winnipeg Basin Get-up-and-go report 

In June, Environment and Climate Change Canada published a concluding report of the second phase of the Lake Winnipeg Basin Initiative. The study concluded that after spending $18 million between 2012 and 2017, the amount of phosphorus minuting the lake fell by less than one per cent.

“It’s surprising. I had to read that front line a couple of times, because we’re talking about five years of essay and achieving a reduction of less than one per cent of what goes into the lake every year,” Kanu bring to light.

Phosphorous feeds the growth of blue-green algae, which can choke out savage life by reducing oxygen. It also releases toxins that can lead to illness and even death in animals and humans.

While reducing phosphorus crosses into the lake by less than one per cent might not seem relevant, one aquatic ecologist said it’s cause for cautious optimism. 

“It is a sort of symbolic gain in that it could have been an increase,” said Gordon Goldsborough, a professor at the University of Manitoba.

Tons of the human practices driving the phosphorus levels in the watershed are deeply unshakeable and will take generations to change, Goldsborough said.

“So to see even a under age decrease is, I think, impressive. I would have predicted that we desire see no decrease and in fact might have seen an increase.”

Targeted course needed

The report also found that more evidence is needed to think out what actions will have the greatest impact.

lake winnipeg

This notion taken in July 2010 shows blue-green algae appearing on lakeshores in the south basin of Lake Winnipeg. (CBC)

The report attributes more than half of the reduction in phosphorous rain into Lake Winnipeg to a single project — the closure of a municipal sewage lagoon in Niverville.

Parish waste projects are relatively easy to control, but their overall contribution to phosphorous au courant withs in Lake Winnipeg is small compared to other sources like agricultural project, said University of Alberta ecology professor David Schindler. 

Manner the fact that these sources are spread over a wide size makes them more difficult to change. Economic and political subjects compound the problem.

Schindler founded the Experimental Lakes Area, which mannered research that led to a greater understanding of the role nutrient levels sport in the health of water bodies.

The Lake Winnipeg Basin crosses four dominions and four states. Besides Manitoba, water flows in from Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Montana.

The Manitoba domination says 50 per cent of the nutrient load in the lake comes from most Manitoba.

About two-thirds of the phosphorus coming into Lake Winnipeg acquire a win from the Red River, Kanu said. This makes finding a colloid more complicated, because the Red River crosses the Canada-U.S. border.

Outpouring along the Red River Valley in recent years has led to increases in nutrients gurgle into the lake, as runoff from fertilized fields and raw sewage natters into the lake.

Blue-green algae at Victoria Beach

Blue-green algae coats rocks at Victoria Strand on July 27, 2017. (Kristie Pearson)

Even if phosphorus levels were checked immediately and dramatically, it could take years for the watershed to regain its constitution. Once phosphorous gets into a lake, it can linger for years in the grounds along the bottom.

“Previously, people have thought that in days gone by the phosphorus gets into the sediments, it’s locked away and won’t cause any more troubles,” said Nora Casson, who co-authored a study called “Internal Phosphorous Lade in Canadian Fresh Waters,” which was published Wednesday in the Canadian Record book of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.

The study found that Lake Winnipeg is peculiarly susceptible to phosphorus “recycling,” whereby phosphorous gets trapped in the lake bed and is discharged over time, contributing to algae blooms for years to come.

“It favoured 50 years to screw that watershed up. It might take a favourable portion of that to turn the watershed back,” Schindler said.

Casson articulate strong regulations are needed to stop phosphorus before it gets into the watershed. 

In August, the management of Manitoba launched the Growing Outcomes in Watersheds program, which advances financial incentives to encourage farmers to adopt practices that reform water retention or restore grassland and wetlands. 

The Lake Winnipeg Origination is in the process of setting up the Lake Winnipeg Community-Based Monitoring Network, which wish train “citizen scientists” to collect water samples from puts around the province. The program, which started with 12 puts in 2016, grew to more than 70 this year.

Kanu faiths this will identify phosphorus “hot spots” which can help scientists and administrations target their efforts.

With Lake Winnipeg Foundation advisor and aquatic chemist, Mike Stainton

Mike Stainton, Lake Winnipeg Underpinning adviser and aquatic chemist, demonstrates the organization’s citizen science shower sampling method to Cathy Cox, Manitoba Sustainable Development minister (hand), on Tuesday in Winnipeg. (Meagan Fiddler/CBC)

Co-ordinating efforts challenging

Robert Sandford is chairperson of water security at the United Nations University Institute for Water, Setting and Health. He criticized the federal and Manitoba governments for not doing more to balm Lake Winnipeg.

The Boundary Waters Treaty between Canada and the U.S. provides moving that governments on both sides of the border could work together to figure out the problem, such as the International Joint Commission, but they haven’t been occupied, he said.

“We don’t seem to be willing to co-operate at that level, we allow separate states and provinces to co-ordinate at that level in disputes over drench quality, ending up with shortsighted and inferior decisions on managing posers,” he said.

In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for the province said “the department of Sustainable Happening has developed nutrient targets for Lake Winnipeg and for tributary rivers that could guiding light future nutrient reduction actions.

“Manitoba is also working closely with transboundary neighbours in the Red River watershed embodying the International Joint Commission and the Red River Basin Commission to develop nutrient reduction objectives for the Red River at the US/Canada border,” said the spokesperson.

The health of Lake Winnipeg doesn’t induce to reach an ecological tipping point for it to have catastrophic economic and group consequences for the province of Manitoba, Sandford said.

More efficient agricultural methods could put away farmers millions and reduce the amount of phosphorus leaching into waterways, because a notable portion of fertilizer isn’t taken up by plants, but instead runs off, Sandfort declared.

The federal government has spent a combined $36 million trying to emend the Lake Winnipeg basin over two funding periods between 2008 and 2017. In July, Milieu Minister Catherine McKenna announced the federal government plans to splash out another $25.7 million on the Lake Winnipeg watershed.

Manitoba Sustainable Condition and ECCC will release the second State of the Lake Report in 2018 or 2019.

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