Water Under Pressure

I noticed recently some posts on the Lac du Bonnet Facebook page about the uncharacteristically early appearance of green algae in the Winnipeg River. Some folks were quick to blame agricultural runoff, others to blame mismanaged grey water from cottagers along the river. Some made jokes that Trudeau would solve the problem by putting a tax on it, a snide side of people which I hope stems from discomfort over the water quality rather than a true lack of care.

The finger pointing doesn’t really help us find solutions. We’re mismanaging one of the most important resources we have. One that is going to be increasingly important with climate change.

If we’ve learned anything from the Sio Sands silica extraction project, it is that we cannot trust our government to be working in the best interest of citizens in terms of protecting water resources. The recent environmental assessment report from June of this year makes it clear that the project has not been thoroughly thought through and that, in the worst case, could cause irreparable harm to this important aquifer.

Concurrently, in Beausejour, the town’s new water filtration system is causing concern for residents who are worried about the impact on the Brokenhead River. The reverse osmosis system requires a lot more water than other methods of water treatment and removes a lot of material from the water. The extra water and material has to go somewhere. Because the Brokenhead is, like most rivers, low ground, that’s the likely destination of both water and material.

This is a beautiful piece of land. In my travels between Winnipeg and West Hawk Lake, I often take the drive down Highway 44 and love that spot where the highway crosses the Brokenhead just outside Beausejour. I’ve swam in that river and paddled it during Cub Pack excursions and enjoyed the wildlife that we found along the way. Aside from human enjoyment, that wildlife is an important ecosystem as are the marshy areas along the banks of the river that filter runoff.

More water means the possibility of raising water levels. More particulates means changing the chemistry of the river. All of which could cause irreparable harm to an important waterway.

And yet, residents in the area, as with residents in Springfield, have had trouble getting information about the environmental impact and getting meaningful engagement with the government over their concerns.

We absolutely must change our approach to projects that have impact on land, wilderness and water. Undertaking thorough, transparent, and proactive environmental assessments is crucial to our long term well being.

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