Press release

Stakeholders to meet early 2011 to build on momentum generated by Lake Winnipeg Basin Summit

December 8, 2010

WINNIPEG—December 9, 2010—Momentum for action on Lake Winnipeg Basin continues to build following a two-day meeting in Winnipeg last week that brought scientists, policy-makers, researchers, business leaders and other stakeholders together to discuss solutions for the lake.

The Lake Winnipeg Basin Summit hosted by the International Institute for Sustainable Development's Water Innovation Centre ended with a shared vision of the future and a call for IISD to chair a stakeholder group tasked with producing a five-year action plan that incorporates innovative approaches and economic benefits for Manitobans.

"The summit has already been a catalyst for positive developments," said Henry David (Hank) Venema, director of IISD's Sustainable Natural Resources Management program and Water Innovation Centre, referring to the government of Manitoba's announcement of support for the IISD's Netley-Libau Marsh Management Project and the appointment of University of Manitoba soil sciences Prof. David Lobb as Manitoba's first-ever research chair in watershed systems.

"David Lobb is a great scientist and will provide excellent scientific leadership as we develop a solutions roadmap and implementation strategy for the Lake Winnipeg Basin," Venema said.

One strategy is to develop a bioeconomy derived from renewable sources. A key link to Lake Winnipeg Basin nutrient management is the insight that phosphorus—the element regarded as the noxious pollutant responsible for fouling Lake Winnipeg—is, like potash, a strategic resource, which can be captured, recycled and transformed into high-value products.

The Netley-Libau Marsh proof-of-concept project as well as nutrient removal and recycling from wastewater are examples of how nutrient management can be linked to economic development opportunities.

Summit co-facilitator John Fjeldsted, executive director of the Manitoba Environmental Industries Association, said the strong representation of the business community at the summit has brought a fresh perspective to dealing with Lake Winnipeg issues. "We are looking for ways to reduce the nutrient loading within the Lake Winnipeg Basin in a way that creates economic opportunities rather than costs."

Red River Basin Commission executive director Lance Yohe said participants left the summit with a feeling of accomplishment. "This conference was a gigantic step forward in addressing Lake Winnipeg problems from a basin perspective. This summit has moved us closer to a unified effort under the umbrella leadership of IISD. Recommendations that are already being acted upon will include a leadership core, a leadership voice, and actions for short- and long-term solutions. These outcomes move us closer to creating a ‘Healthy Lake Winnipeg'."

Ducks Unlimited research biologist Shane Gabor said disregard for wetlands has significantly contributed to the plight of lake Winnipeg. "The summit symbolized the nature of the coordination, cooperation and innovation that will be required if we hope to avoid the collapse of ecosystems that we all take for granted."

IISD plans to convene a meeting of stakeholders early in 2011 to begin the transition to a solutions strategy for the Lake Winnipeg Basin.

For more information please contact Nona Pelletier, IISD media and communications officer,
Phone +1 204 958-7740 Cell: +1 204 962-1303 

About IISD

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) is an award-winning independent think tank working to accelerate solutions for a stable climate, sustainable resource management, and fair economies. Our work inspires better decisions and sparks meaningful action to help people and the planet thrive. We shine a light on what can be achieved when governments, businesses, non-profits, and communities come together. IISD’s staff of more than 250 experts come from across the globe and from many disciplines. With offices in Winnipeg, Geneva, Ottawa, and Toronto, our work affects lives in nearly 100 countries.