Lake Winnipeg could be world’s most threatened lake this year

Jan 10, 2013 | Chamber News

But this ‘freshwater disaster’ could still be fixed, say water experts

Official nominations have closed, and Lake Winnipeg is in the running for ‘Threatened Lake of the Year, 2013.’ Global Nature Fund, the organization that created the International Living Lakes network, chooses the most-threatened lake in the world annually and the Lake Winnipeg nomination was made by affiliate Living Lakes Canada.

Past ‘winners’ of this dubious distinction have included Lake Titicaca, on the borders of Bolivia and Peru, and the Dead Sea, which is shared by Israel, Jordan and Palestine.

“As one of the largest lakes in the world, Lake Winnipeg is very well known, but not much is known internationally about the dramatic environmental problems of the lake and the wetlands in its watershed,” said Udo Gattenlohner, of Global Nature Fund.

“Many people in Germany and through out Europe believe environmental problems hardly occur in Canada,” Gattenlohner said. “However, recent changes in Canadian policies seem to be eroding the protection particularly of vulnerable water ecosystems—and it is disappointing because this does not really fit with our image of Canada”

Lake Winnipeg is the tenth largest freshwater lake in the world. It’s watershed spans nearly one million square kilometres and stretches from the Rocky Mountains to Lake Superior. The watershed drains agricultural fields, livestock farms, and has 6.7 million people living in it.

Bob Sandford, chair of the Canadian Partnership Initiative in support of the U.N. Water for Life Decade, said: “Lake Winnipeg has at last been identified internationally as one of the world’s great fresh water disasters, just as many scientists predicted.

“Despite the efforts and good intentions of concerned Manitobans, Canada’s international environmental reputation has been down-graded to below that of a developing nation.”

The ‘Threatened Lake of the Year announcement will be made February 2, 2013, during World Wetland Day.

“Lake Winnipeg is increasingly threatened by activities that destroy natural habitats, exacerbate flooding, reduce biodiversity, and contribute to climate warming,” said Alex Salki, Science Advisory Council Chair to the Lake Winnipeg Foundation.

“Manitoba needs to implement science-based land and water management strategies,” Salki said. “And introduce mechanisms that guide stakeholder responsibilities so that Lake Winnipeg can recover.”

About Living Lakes Canada

Living Lakes Canada is a joint initiative of Wildsight, Lake Winnipeg Foundation and Global Nature Fund, and is affiliated with Living Lakes International. Living Lakes Canada is a growing network of community organizations working to build capacity for the effective protection of Canada’s freshwater resources. Living Lakes Canada bridges the gap between science and action to foster citizen-based water stewardship. Our mandate is to help Canadians understand the intimate connections between water quantity, water quality, climate change, biodiversity, and healthy communities through watershed stewardship. Living Lakes Canada provides a strategic and unique opportunity to apply consistently standardized monitoring protocols so that we can compare watershed health and protect freshwater across Canada.

Former Threatened Lakes of the Year:

  •  2012: Lake Titicaca, Bolivia and Peru
  • 2011: Launa de Fuquene, Colombia
  • 2010: Pulicat Lake, India
  • 2009: Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
  • 2008: Mahakam Wetlands, Indonesia
  • 2007: Pantanal, Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia
  • 2006: Dead Sea, Israel, Jordan and Palestine
  • 2005: Lake Victoria, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda
  • 2004: Lake Chapala, Mexico


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