Manitoba is known as the Land of 100,000 Lakes — a fitting nickname. About 13 per cent of all freshwater in Canada passes through the province before flowing into the Hudson Bay via a number of waterways. But today, some of these passages are being threatened by unnatural changes, such as land development, pollution and invasive species. This has led to the creation of several organizations that are making the conservation and protection of Manitoba’s waters a priority through education and action. Here’s a list of some of these ongoing initiatives.
The Lake Winnipeg Foundation
Lake Winnipeg was recently named the world’s most threatened lake by a German company called Global Nature Fund. The welfare of the world’s 10th largest freshwater lake is being compromised by agricultural pollution and sewage discharges. Founded in 2005, the Lake Winnipeg Foundation is a non-governmental organization that focuses its efforts on education, research, stewardship and collaboration between academics, industry leaders, the government and the public to protect and restore the lake to a cleaner state.
The organization recently issued $21,500 in grants to institutions like the University of Manitoba and the International Institute for Sustainable Development to fund different kinds of research, such as a study that will determine the levels of microplastics in Lake Winnipeg. It also encourages education by visiting schools and subsidizing field trips for classes and community groups.
Save Our Seine River Environment Inc. (SOS)
Save Our Seine is a not-for-profit, community-driven organization that is dedicated to protecting the Seine River, one of the four rivers that flow through Winnipeg. SOS’s goals include the preservation, protection and enhancement of the river’s natural environment. It also monitors the state of the river and is consulted as an expert source in issues involving the waterway.
Some of its past projects include an over $2.5-million fundraiser created to protect the Bois-des-spirits, a forest in the Seine River area, from bulldozing and development, and a project called “Eyes on the River” that encourages community members to report unusual sightings, such as unusual water conditions and contamination, to SOS so that the organization can follow-up and take the appropriate action. This year, the project celebrates its 25th anniversary by hosting a series of special educational and recreational events. According to its website, these activities will highlight the “natural, culture and historical features found along the length of the Seine River,” from the city limits to its mouth at the Red River.
Pimachiowin Aki World Heritage Project
The Pimachiowin Aki World Heritage Project is a collaborative effort from the provincial government and five First Nations groups: Bloodvein River, Little Grand Rapids, Pikangikum, Pauingassi and Poplar River. Started over a decade ago, this non-profit corporation differs slightly from the others — its goal is to protect the Bloodvein River and the forest areas around it by turning the 33,400 square kilometres of land into a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Last year, the organization failed in getting that designation for the area, but its members remain determined, and resubmitted a revised 260-page nomination report in January this past year. It hopes that getting the approval from UNESCO will limit road development near the Bloodvein River, which would open up opportunities for industrialization that would alter the natural ecosystem.
Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation
The Canadian and provincial governments have also supported efforts to maintain the health of Manitoba’s waters. The Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation is a non-profit Crown corporation that was created to conserve, restore and enhance the province’s natural habitat and the wildlife within it. Through programs like the Riparian Conservation Agreements Program, the corporation works in partnership with the Manitoba Conservation Water Stewardship to filter nutrient-rich water using riparian areas (areas located on banks that are usually dependent or affected by the adjacent body of water) by looking at vegetation patterns and the cleanliness of riverbanks.
Red River Basin Commission
Before emptying into Lake Winnipeg, the Red River passes through the province’s capital, making it prone to pollution that threatens the wildlife and overall welfare of the area. The Red River Basin Commission is a not-for-profit corporation that was created in 2002 by members of the community dedicated to improving the management of the river’s water resources. The Red River — also known as the Red River of the North in the United States — also flows through the Dakotas and Minnesota states.
The corporation works internationally, and published a report in 2011 of long-term flood solutions compiled over several years that it hopes will assist leaders, water managers and policymakers “understand the overall risk of flood damages throughout the basin.” It has since been working toward reducing flood damage, among other projects.