Cleaning up Lake Winnipeg

Lake Winnipeg Basin Initiative

The Government of Canada is committed to the long-term sustainability of Canada's lakes and waterways to ensure that there is clean water for all Canadians, both for this, and future, generations. To this end, on August 2nd, 2012, the Government of Canada announced the launch of Phase II of the Lake Winnipeg Basin Initiative (LWBI) with a five-year (2012-2017), $18 million investment through the Action Plan for Clean Water that will focus on improving water quality for people living in the region, as well as for fish and wildlife in and surrounding Lake Winnipeg.

The Lake Winnipeg Basin Initiative aims to restore the ecological health of Lake Winnipeg, reduce pollution from sources such as agriculture, industry and wastewater, and improve water quality for fisheries and recreation. The Lake Winnipeg ecosystem supports an annual freshwater fishery of $50 million and a $110 million recreation and tourism industry.

Phase II (2012-2017) of the LWBI will build on the scientific accomplishments of Phase I (2008-2012) and move towards taking greater action to address water quality issues, including:

  • Targeting the stewardship program on actions and areas, that have the best possible impact on water quality;
  • Implementing greater watershed research and monitoring; and
  • Increasing emphasis on collaborative work with other governments within the watershed

In the first phase of the LWBI (2008-2012), the Government of Canada invested $17.7 million for three types of activities: scientific research ($12.1 million), community stewardship programs ($3.7 million); and collaboration on watershed governance ($1.9 million).

During Phase I, Environment and Climate Change Canada researchers took a strong, science-based approach to investigating water quality issues within the lake and its watershed. Through these efforts, the initiative was able to fill important gaps in research, data collection and monitoring of the lake's ecology and the sources and movement of nutrients that contribute to the formation of the large and persistent algae blooms seen in recent years.

In addition, the Government of Canada is also providing support for community based projects through the Lake Winnipeg Basin Stewardship Fund - part of the Lake Winnipeg Basin Initiative and administered through Environment and Climate Change Canada's Lake Winnipeg Basin Office. The fund is cleaning up Lake Winnipeg by providing support to action-oriented water stewardship projects led by communities, conservation authorities, non-profit organizations and academic institutions.

Interactive map of Lake Winnipeg Basin Stewardship Fund project locations.

In addition, Phase I established a formal agreement between the Government of Canada and the Province of Manitoba through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that ensured long-term collaboration to improve the health of Lake Winnipeg. Following the establishment of this MoU, the Province of Manitoba also launched its own Save Lake Winnipeg Act (2011) and has invested over $100 million in efforts to improve the health of the lake over the past decade.

Below is a map showing the Lake Winnipeg watershed, which is almost one million square kilometres in size. In Canada, the watershed covers parts of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario, as well as, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota in the U.S.A.

Map of Lake Winnipeg Watershed
Photo: © Environment and Climate Change Canada
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