On July 24, 2017, the Government of Canada announced that it will invest $25.7 million into the Lake Winnipeg Basin program as part of its broader efforts to advance work on freshwater management in Canada.
Specifically the new program funding will be directed to:
- Reducing nutrient pollution;
- Enhancing collaboration to protect freshwater quality throughout the Lake Winnipeg basin; and
- Strengthening collaborative-governance opportunities and supporting engagement of Indigenous peoples in addressing freshwater issues.
A week earlier, in Pilot Butte, Saskatchewan, Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, was reported to say: “With astute science, engineering, planning and investment, we could develop a network of upstream water control structures – large and small, natural and constructed – together with properly designed channels, reservoirs, wetlands and wooded areas to manage waterflows in a smarter, more effective way, countering the debilitating cycles of floods and droughts.”
While these announcements are certainly positive and encouraging, there is good reason to be cautious with the enthusiasm. As is often the case, the devil is in the details. My biggest concern is that priority will be given to engineered solutions over the protection and restoration of natural ecosystems. The last thing that is needed are more dams clogging watersheds. Instead more effort needs to be directed to developing ways of encouraging landowners to retain water on their land. Rampant drainage must be reined in.
Wetlands provide an incredible array of ecological services, such as overland flooding mitigation, water purification, and aquifer re-charge, which are worth a lot to municipalities in terms of saving scarce tax dollars.
Wetlands are also biological hotspots, often abounding with numerous species of flora and fauna.
They deserve better protection across Canada.