Catchment problems plague world’s 10th largest lake

30 January 2012

Problems generated in catchments cause problems in all lakes.  Rectifying the problem is based, to a large extent, on making everyone who lives in the catchment understand their role or contribution to the lake’s ills, even those people who live so far away that they never see the lake.  They need to know that what goes into the storm drain outside their house or business has to end up somewhere!

Lake Winnipeg is the world’s 10th largest lake:

Lake Winnipeg, the 10th largest freshwater lake in the world, often garners a lot of attention in Manitoba as a hub for industry and recreation in this province, and as an ecological hotspot with mounting environmental issues.

But this past week, community leaders from North Dakota and Minnesota joined in the conversation with Manitobans as Lake Winnipeg was a topic of discussion at the 29th Annual Red River Basin Land & Water International Summit Conference held in Winnipeg.

Dwight Williamson, assistant deputy minister for Manitoba Water Stewardship, summarized recent research done about the condition of Lake Winnipeg, in addition to measures the province has taken in the last year or so to protect the lake.

Everything that we do in this basin, as we work and live in the basin, in one way or another can have an effect on the health of this lake,” stressed Williamson.

Lastly Hank Venema, of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, spoke about bio-economy and Lake Winnipeg. He highlighted a need to develop the Lake Winnipeg Watershed, including the Red River Basin, so that nutrients in the lake can return to balanced levels. This strategy would include long-term water storage in sloughs, for example, to promote biomass production with crops such as cattails, switchgrass, alfalfa and willow, which would allow for more nutrient recycling in turn.

“This is not easy stuff, but the benefits are so great in getting this right,” said Venema. “If we can figure out how to buffer that (continued overland flooding and resulting surplus of nutrients) and derive value, that’s a huge economic development opportunity.

This accords with the need to beneficiate wastewater effluents (see earlier post).

Although not blue-green algae, the Caloosahatchee River in Florida is being plagued by two other types of algae:

Scientists have discovered another algae bloom – one that is impacting the Caloosahatchee River. It has been found along the river from downtown Fort Myers to Fort Myers Shores.

This week scientists discovered two types of algae blooming in the river.

The first is Akashiwo sanguinea which located under the water’s surface and has reddish-brown hues.

The second, Polysiphonia, can be seen right along the shoreline. Though it’s ordinarily green, once it decomposes it turns black and stinks.

Rick Bartleson, from the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Marine Lab discovered the algae on Monday.

By Thursday, it had grown a quarter-of-a-mile and is now almost two miles in length.

The reason, Bartleson says, is excess nitrogen, which commonly found in fertilizer.

“A reduction in nutrients is best to keep levels of algae normal. A little bit is good, too much takes up oxygen,” Bartleson said.

Rick knows what he is talking about!  Nutrient management, before it gets into the lake or river, is the only solution!

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