Heritage Group meeting of September 15, 2016,
The Heritage Group was pleased to welcome Marlo Campbell, Communications Director for the
Lake Winnipeg Foundation (LWF), as the first presenter of our new season. Marlo indicated that the LWF is a “lake lovers organization”. The 4 areas of focus for the LWF are: Research, Education, Stewardship, Collaboration. It is an environmental charity, taking care of lakes, rivers and watersheds. Lake Winnipeg is the 10th largest fresh water lake in the world: “Great Lake of the West”.
LWF is concerned with commercial, recreational and tourism activities. Lake Winnipeg has had 8000 years of settlement and there are 23,000 people that live all around the lake. Lake Winnipeg is unique because of the size of the watershed. 7 million people live on the watershed which covers 4 provinces and some United States. Calgary is part of the watershed. The watershed is like a funnel that drains into a body of water. Lake Winnipeg is the bottom of the funnel. The lake is beautiful but it is in trouble.
Lake Winnipeg is the bottom of the funnel
The big problem is “Eutrophication” which is a condition where too many nutrients are in the water. Phosphorous and nitrogen are 2 of the nutrients and these can cause health problems.
Phosphorus + Nitrogen+ Sunlight = Algae.
Not only is algae an esthetic problem but it also causes economic and cultural issues. When algae die they sink and decompose. They take nutrients which deprive the lake and choke it from the bottom up.
There are many types of algae. Cyanobacteria is the blue/green algae which is toxic to animals and humans. It can cause neurological and liver damage. It takes nitrogen from the atmosphere. Phosphorus (P) is taken from the lake. P comes from cleaning products as well as hand soap, fertilizers and poop (human and animal).
Climate change is affecting ecosystems all over the world. Floods used to occur once in a hundred years, they are occurring more frequently causing more and more nutrients to be pushed into the funnel. The flood in Calgary affected Lake Winnipeg causing lots of nutrients to be dumped into it.
Zebra mussels are also a problem. They are an aquatic invasive species which are able to multiply rapidly. 1 mussel can birth 1 million mussels. They were found in Lake Winnipeg in October 2013. They preferentially feed on good algae. The cyanobacteria may flourish as a result. Zebra mussels stick to rocks, docks, boats and hydro equipment. They clog water intake lines. When they die, their shells are on the beach, which are very sharp and they cause changes to the ecosystem. Checkout Zebra Mussels 101 on the LWF website for more information.
Winnipeg is the furthest point west where zebra mussels have been found. They are found in the Red River, Lake Winnipeg and Cedar Lake. They come on boats.
A handout was given on zebra mussels.
- Keep water on the land: must protect our ditches and wetlands and build new ones.
- Conserve the boreal forest: pristine forest areas serve as water filtration systems.
- Set a standard for wastewater treatment: For example the North End Water Pollution facility is the 4th largest phosphorus polluter, It needs upgrading. The cost of that will be $½ billion.
- Monitor waterways: need to increase citizen science capacity. For example people can be taught water collection protocols and analyze for phosphorus before and after weather events.
- Manage shorelines: develop rehab and protections eg. Netley Marsh
- Promote agricultural water stewardship: smart farming, how to feed animals and dispose of manure, what to do about erosion.
- Cat tails suck up phosphorus. Cat tail pellets are being made and they can heat a facility (Living Prairie Museum)
- Invest in a clean economy
- Take responsibility: “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world: Margaret Mead”
HOW CAN YOU HELP
- Reduce your water footprint: use less water
- Take action at home: think lake friendly, compost, take stuff to recycle place eg. Medications, don’t throw down the drain.
- Educate yourself and spread the word: There is a series of talks in Assiniboine Park in October. (Frankly, Lake Winnipeg, Nobody Gives a Damn; Creating Smart Water Policy: who gets to make the rules; So Now What? Water Stewardship in the Real World). Check out dates on LWF website.
- Support the Lake Winnipeg Foundation:
Marlo concluded by indicating that the LWF has amazing volunteers. That our responsibility is to push a sense of urgency, that research must be evidence based and it must be a targeted long term approach.
Many questions followed. There was discussion of garburetors and their impact on the lake, pellets from cosmetics and fertilizers. Other points mentioned/discussed:
- The Netherlands is way ahead in this area, they use grey water from showers etc.
- 13 litres of water is used with each flush of the toilet, when you replace a toilet, replace with a low flow which uses 4 litres.
- There is no legislation yet to ban phosphorous in products
- It would be ideal to have a lake friendly notification on product labels