Manitoba Watershed Group To Help Lead The Battle For Better Water Management

The Tobacco Creek Model Watershed project is one of four groups selected by the Canadian Water Network (CWN) to co-manage research that will lead to better water management.

“We have been waiting for something like the CWN to come along for many years,” Tobacco Creek watershed chair Les McEwan said in a statement.

Efforts to improve water quality in the watershed date back to the late 1970s when some local residents in the South Tobacco Creek watershed (near Miami) constructed a series of small dams that created ponds and marshes, and reduce peak flows. The result was less phosphorus and cleaner water.

“Our plan involves a combined investment in excess of $2 million devoted to the challenges facing the Red River Valley and the Lake Winnipeg basin focused on the development of a ‘living watershed laboratory’ at Tobacco Creek,” McEwan said in a statement to project supporters posted at http://tobaccocreek.com.

“One of our first priorities is focused on the establishment of a detailed monitoring network (for water quality and hydrology) within all sub-watersheds of the Tobacco Creek system.”

The CWN funding plan will allow for “end-user-driven research,” he said.

The Tobacco Creek group was one of 29 organizations to apply to CWN, which operates out of the University of Waterloo. It will work with the Tobacco Creek group to identify the kind of research most likely to have value for it and connect its members with leading Canadian water researchers before research begins, said CWN executive director Bernadette Conant.

“We have turned the traditional research process on its head,” said Conant.

“By soliciting watershed groups across Canada to compete to develop requests for proposals that address their needs, we have charged these groups with identifying a practical issue to be solved for which there is shared interest among local decision makers. This will result in strong interest by watershed managers to implement the results of research.”

His group wants to focus on research that will provide benefits to the province, said McEwan, who lives near Altamont.

“Ultimately, we plan to create a sustainable agricultural watershed based on sound science, ongoing research, monitoring, demonstration, and continued improvement,” he said. “Ongoing water quality problems affecting Lake Winnipeg combined with costly damages associated with severe flooding across the Canadian Prairies suggest the need for this research facility is greater than ever. The TCMW offers some small, but real pathways to longfiterm watershed solutions. We see the TCMW as a ‘watershed of the future.’”

The Tobacco Creek group will receive $600,000 in funding over three years from CWN and hopes to attract a similar amount of matching funding from government and other agencies.

Calls for research proposals to be conducted within these watersheds will go out later this month. Along with Tobacco Creek Model Watershed Research Consortium, three other “research consortium nodes” are being established. The others are the Grand River Watershed Consortium in Cambridge, Ont.; the Muskoka River Watershed Monitoring and Management Consortium in Bracebridge, Ont.; and the Northumberland Strait Environmental Monitoring Partnership in Fredericton, N.B.

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Ongoingwaterqualityproblems affectingLakeWinnipegcombined withcostlydamagesassociatedwith severefloodingacrosstheCanadian Prairiessuggesttheneedforthis researchfacilityisgreaterthanever.”

– LES MCEWAN

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