Lake Winnipeg Basin Program announcement


The size of Lake Winnipeg and the scale of its transboundary basin make it a freshwater body of international significance. Almost one million square kilometres of land drains into Lake Winnipeg. The population of the Lake Winnipeg watershed is 6.2 million, with 5.5 million in Canada and 711 000 in the United States. Lake Winnipeg is also important to the Canadian economy, generating millions of dollars of revenue in the hydroelectric ($500 million), recreation ($110 million), and commercial freshwater fishing industries ($15 million), representing about 61 percent and 25 percent of the value of the entire commercial freshwater fishery for Manitoba and Canada, respectively.

Lake Winnipeg is experiencing large and frequent algal blooms due to high nutrient levels from multiple transboundary sources, including agriculture, industry, municipal wastewater, and surface runoff. Over half of the nutrients originate outside of Manitoba’s borders, predominantly from the Red River in Minnesota and North Dakota, necessitating a collaborative approach to transboundary nutrient-management activities. Still unknown are the aquatic-ecosystem implications of the recent zebra mussel infestation in the Red River and in Lake Winnipeg. Climate-change implications for Lake Winnipeg include warmer water, longer ice-free seasons, and changes to timing and concentration of nutrient transport during spring and summer runoff events.

Previous science, collaborative-governance activities, and nutrient-reduction efforts have generated the knowledge and stakeholder support needed to coordinate the development of nutrient targets in the basin. The federal Lake Winnipeg Basin Program is one of several federal, provincial, state, and stakeholder efforts that are collectively necessary to reduce nutrient loading in the basin.

Canada will continue to collaborate with Manitoba through the Canada-Manitoba Memorandum of Understanding Respecting Lake Winnipeg and the Lake Winnipeg Basin, which is in effect until September 2020. It provides a forum for both governments to collaborate and coordinate information and efforts relating to the health of Lake Winnipeg.

This funding builds on previous efforts through the departmentally led Lake Winnipeg Basin Initiative and aligns with the establishment of transboundary nutrient objectives, which are being developed through existing governance structures such as the International Joint Commission and the Prairie Provinces Water Board, as well as conducting freshwater-quality and -quantity monitoring. With the discovery of zebra mussels in Lake Winnipeg and the entire Red River main stem, Environment and Climate Change Canada’s modelling expertise will provide support for improving the understanding of the implications to nutrient cycling within the aquatic ecosystem.

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