The federal government has awarded $2.2 million in funding to 19 projects aimed at improving the health of Lake Winnipeg.
The feds earmarked $25.7 million for the Lake Winnipeg Basin Program — out of a $70.5 million pot for freshwater protection across the country.
Friday’s announcement saw various initiatives tackling nutrient removal, water quality monitoring and preventing nutrients from entering the lake receive funding, which will be spread over a three-year period.
“Over the last several decades, water quality in Lake Winnipeg has deteriorated due to excess nutrients transported to the lake from rivers and surface runoff,” Winnipeg South MP Terry Duguid said. “There are significant amounts of phosphorus from various sources, and this causes algae blooms.”
“As the waters warm from climate change, it is very likely to become much, much worse.”
One of the projects receiving funding Friday is an initiative in the village of Dunnottar, which Chris Penner with Scatliff Miller Murray helped work on.
“We are demonstrating the use of floating treatment wetlands as part of our project, also the use of floating treatment wetlands configured in a certain way to promote the growth of duckweed,” Penner said. “And so far, it’s working.”
“The interesting thing about (duckweed) is that in quiet water conditions, it basically replaces algae — algae is better capable of tolerating rough waters — but duckweed is also an interesting plant in that it soaks up an awful lot of nutrient.”
Penner said the aquatic plant is used for the same purpose in similar climates like the northern United States, so he’s hopeful it will have significant success taking phosphorus and nitrogen out of the water in Manitoba.
Other initiatives getting money as part of the Lake Winnipeg Basin Program include the Prairie Spirit School Division, which will use $33,000 for the Riverwatch Program to improve water quality monitoring and assessment, a study from the University of Saskatchewan looking into minimizing the transportation of nutrients into waterways through drainage options and a project from the University of Manitoba studying how to reduce runoff through crop and soil practices.
“There have been comments that these are humble projects, and I agree with that,” Duiguid said. “I firmly believe we need to scale up our efforts on Lake Winnipeg and its watershed.”
“A humble start — we need to scale up these efforts and stay tuned, because I think you’ll be hearing more from us as a government.”
The efforts from the Lake Winnipeg Basin Program are expected to prevent 15 tonnes of phosphorus from entering the lake each year by 2022.
Lake Winnipeg is the sixth largest lake in Canada, and the eleventh largest freshwater lake in the world.