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The Nature of Things on CBC-TV – Sunday April 3 @ 7:00 PM ET

Save My Lake examines the situation in Lake Winnipeg where plant and fish life is being choked out by algae blooms. The algae problem has been a concern for years, but its causes are varied and complex, and resources haven’t been mobilized adequately to solve it.

There are many different types of algae. Some algae are actually poisonous, but most algae blooms are harmful because they absorb oxygen from the water, starving other marine life of a vital element. Most algae blooms are caused by nitrogen-rich animal and human waste flowing into the water system. Lake Winnipeg receives agricultural runoff from the entire Red River after it flows through North and South Dakota, Minnesota and Manitoba. Meanwhile, raw untreated sewage from the city of Winnipeg contaminates the Red River during spring flood season.

Marsh beds are normally allowed to aerate periodically as part of nature’s cycles. Manitoba Hydro has contributed to the problem in Lake Winnpeg by maintaining water levels at stable levels to maximize electricity generation. Dutch pioneers who originally drained marshes in the North American Midwest could never have anticipated the long-term consequences of removing these natural “filters” from the ecosystem to create new farmland.

Water management is one of the potential looming environmental crises of the new millennium. Groups like Ducks Unlimited are helping to curtail the algae problem by reclaiming wetlands for fowl hunting, but a more concerted effort is required. The multi-government dynamic of water management creates political inertia, but governments won’t solve our water crisis without public impetus. Citizens must also be willing to re-evaluate the 20th century “flush-and-forget” approach to biological waste.

Save My Lake is a 1-hour documentary special produced by Toronto-based Stornoway Productions.

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