World Wetlands Day happened on February 2nd. The non-profit Global Nature Fund marks the day by naming the most threatened lake in the world. This year, they picked Lake Winnipeg, a large freshwater lake in the province of Manitoba in Canada.
Lake Winnipeg is the 10th largest freshwater lake in the world. Despite it’s great geographical extent, it is actually quite shallow, and therefore prone to pollution and surface weather events. A dam at the northern outlet of the lake was constructed in the 1970s to regulate the water level of the lake.
Back in 2010, Lake Winnipeg experienced an algae bloom that puts the one we experienced in Lake Burley-Griffin last autumn to shame. The bloom covered the entire lake, wrecking havoc on people’s vacation plans. Algae blooms are a common problem in Lake Winnipeg, and the Lake Winnipeg Research Consortium has a good collection of satellite photos showing them.
The problems with Lake Winnipeg are largely the result of human activities. The Nature of Things produced a documentary on the lake last year, highlighting the causes of algae production. Algae grows due to the influx of sewage and agricultural by-products that are rich in phosphorous. However, the largest problem may be the hydroelectric dams that keep the lake at a steady level. The dams flood wetlands that act as a buffer to protect the lake from toxins, and blunt the ability of the lake to drain itself.
Seeing Lake Winnipeg in such a state is pretty bad news for the people who enjoy going to “Cottage Country”. Grand Beach, located near the south end of the lake was ranked as the second best beach in Canada by Reader’s Digest. Conservation of the lake is a major political football, and as mentioned in a previous post it has come at the expense of the world renowned Experimental Lakes Area.