Envisioning the Watershed of the Future
Matthew McCandless and Dean Medeiros of the Water Innovation Centre present on a hypothetical watershed at the Lake Winnipeg Basin Summit, held in Winnipeg, Canada, on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, 2010.
This future watershed has attained a sustainable environmental and socioeconomic equilibrium through the development of a bioeconomy—an economy in which the basic building blocks for industry are obtained from renewable sources. This vision reduces non-point nutrient loading in the watershed, while simultaneously strengthening the agricultural sector. It provides greater resilience to droughts, floods and high fertilizer prices, while simultaneously generating new value chains for agricultural wastes and ecological services.
Central to the "Watershed of the Future" concept is the harvesting of agricultural residues, as well as the restoration of wetlands and shorelines, from which plant materials could also be harvested. The "Watershed of the Future" seizes upon the impressive nutrient uptake potential of wetland plants (e.g., cattails) and aquatic vegetation (e.g., duckweed), and recognizes that the nutrients locked within these plant fibres could be recaptured. In total, non-point phosphorous loading to waterways could be reduced by 25 to 95 per cent.
Once harvested, this plant matter would be processed in biorefineries—industrial plants that take biological materials as their inputs—and turned into high-value products such as cellulosic ethanol, bioplastics and pharmaceuticals. Through these biorefineries, phosphorous and nitrogen would also be recycled back into agriculture as fertilizers, thereby decreasing Manitoba's reliance on fuel-intensive nitrogen fertilizers and phosphorous imported from mines.
In addition, the "Watershed of the Future" takes an innovative approach to wastewater treatment, proposing that the approximately 400 wastewater treatment sites in Manitoba could become part of the bioeconomy through the creation of constructed wetlands that would not only clean the water and provide wildlife habitat, but also grow raw materials for processing in biorefineries.
You might also be interested in
Strategic Large-Basin Management for Multiple Benefits: Submission to the Manitoba Clean Environment Commission
This paper was submitted to the Manitoba Clean Environment Commission (CEC) for consideration in its review of the regulation of Lake Winnipeg under the Water Power Act.The submission makes the case for strategic basin management in the Lake Winnipeg/Nelson River basins to ensure that decisions…
Our Lake, Our Solutions: Two years of progress and partnerships
This video details progress IISD has made with its partners on the bioeconomy concept since the Lake Winnipeg Basin Summit in 2010, when IISD brought together 150 stakeholders to talk about solutions for Lake Winnipeg, the 10th largest freshwater lake in the world and one of the most nutrient…
Lake Winnipeg Basin Summit Follow-up Meeting: Our Lake, Our Solutions
On November 30 and December 1, 2010, approximately 150 scientists, policy-makers, business leaders, civil society members and other stakeholders convened in Winnipeg for an intensive, two-day "Lake Winnipeg Basin Summit" hosted by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) Water…
A History of Innovation in the Lake Winnipeg Basin
Karla Zubrycki of the Water Innovation Centre presents on the history of innovation in the Lake Winnipeg Basin at the Lake Winnipeg Basin Summit, held in Winnipeg, Canada, on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, 2010.An analysis of the history of the Lake Winnipeg Basin shows that, for centuries, people living in…