Dunnottar has a tree-lined pathway, curbside recycling and makes the yard waste it composts available to local residents to use in this lakeside village’s large number of community gardens.
It does water conservation education too. Someday the local government hopes to heat its municipal office with solar panels.
But it’s how this small village of about 700 in winter — and 4,000 during cottage season — treats its waste water that makes it really stand out as a place planning for long-term sustainability.
Dunnottar has a system for sending cleaner water to Lake Winnipeg that’s unique in Manitoba and possibly one of its kind anywhere in Canada.
They spent about 10 years researching and testing its passive filter system, now fully operational for two years, as a low-cost and low-maintenance slow-release method significantly reducing nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus, heavy metals and fecal matter being released from their lagoon. Biweekly tests while it was still being piloted showed it reduced release of nitrogen by up to 60 per cent and phosphorus by 62 per cent.
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That project is what Eastern Interlake Conservation District officials say impressed them most while deciding to present Dunnottar with an award for environmental stewardship this winter.
“If I had to pick one achievement that stands out by far to us it would be the unrelenting work that they put into this,” said Armand Belanger, manager of the EICD. “They went well above and beyond any other current system to reduce effluent and other contaminants.”
It’s proven to be a system that doesn’t just have an environmental benefit but costs less too, he said, adding it’s EICD’s aim to see many more municipalities adopt the same system eventually.
“Rick tells me it’s cheaper than putting in a third cell (of a lagoon system).”
Rick is Rick Gamble, mayor of Dunnottar. Long serving on organizations such as Lake Friendly Stewards Alliance as co-chair, the Lake Winnipeg Foundation Board and the South Basin Mayors and Reeves group, Gamble says when you live on the lake you see first hand the problem you’ve contributed to — and want to contribute to the solution.
“We’ve always leaned this way,” he said. “For close to 15 years we’ve been pushing the envelope to clean up our own backyard so to speak.”
Dunnottar’s care for the environment around it extends farther up the beach too.
It’s also one of about 30 municipalities in Manitoba with a Climate Change Action Plan developed with support from Eco-West, a province-wide group helping local government calculate its greenhouse gas emissions and adopting new technologies to reduce them.
Someday they hope to have charging stations for electric vehicles too, Gamble said. He doesn’t drive one himself right now. It’s lack of infrastructure holding him back.
“There’s very, very little of it outside of Winnipeg,” he said.
Another initiative currently underway in Dunnottar is its sustainability committee that’s working on a community-led and -inspired plan for more future sustainable living projects.
Gamble believes more communities in Manitoba could be moving in the same overall direction as Dunnottar. What it takes is community backing.
“I’ve always been a firm believer in the bottom-up, not top-down approach,” he said, adding that’s been why Dunnottar is as far along as it is.
He’s also convinced more people than ever before are thinking about how a changing climate could affect future generations.
“I think municipalities are going to have to realize… and provincial government… that we’re going to have to do things a little differently,” he said.
The ongoing challenge right now is finding resources for the infrastructure initiatives they want to pursue, he added.
“You can think progressive, but can you act?” he said, adding that Dunnottar paid its share of the cost of its waste water treatment innovation with gas tax refund revenues saved up for several years.
New resources are becoming available, however.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) just this month rolled out two new programs that will provide grants and training to help local governments pay for and implement various sustainability initiatives.
One is the Municipalities for Climate Innovation Program (MCIP), a five-year, $75-million program starting up in spring of 2017 to help fund studies, plans and demonstration projects. The other is the Municipal Asset Management Program to help municipalities with limited budgets and competing priorities be able to invest in sustainable infrastructure that contributes to a clean growth economy.
Both programs are federally funded and available to all municipalities and their partners.
Dunnottar was recognized for its outstanding effort to protect Lake Winnipeg and its watershed during the annual awards ceremony of the Manitoba Conservation District Association in December. Watch for more stories highlighting other initiatives recognized by the MCDA.