People passionate about nature

Winnipeg’s Lake Winnipeg

Water woes at FortWhyte Alive

by: Katrina Froese, Education Coordinator, FortWhyte Alive

FortWhyte Alive, in the southwest corner of Winnipeg, is home to five clay pit “ponds”, remnants from excavation by Canada Cement which began in 1911. These lakes are significant features on the landscape, measuring up to half a kilometre long and with depths of 6 to 8 metres. FortWhyte’s lakes provide a haven within city limits – drawing waterfowl, wildlife and humans for almost a century. Although the steep banks of the lakes have experienced erosion over the years, the uplands are now growing with waving grasses, dense growths of willows and tall trees such as cottonwood and trembling aspen.

FortWhyte Alive’s programming revolves around the water as a setting for recreation such as paddling and sailing, and as a teaching tool for school groups and the public around the importance of freshwater to environmental sustainability.

Over the past 15-20 years, FortWhyte’s lakes have been experiencing a decline in water quality, mirroring the issues faced by Lake Winnipeg. Summer algae blooms have become larger and more numerous, as well as evidence of new blooms in fall and spring. Though we have yet to confirm the cause of our lakes’ decline, we are suspicious of the impact of increasing numbers of migratory waterfowl that land on the lakes each spring and fall. Studies have shown that a well-fed, healthy adult Canada goose can produce up to 1.5 pounds of fecal matter per day (1), contributing high levels of phosphorus, a main nutrient contributing to algae blooms.

With the many challenges that Manitoba is facing regarding water quality, from increasing flow of phosphorus to Lake Winnipeg from sources including urban wastewater, fertilizers, livestock manure, and overland flooding, fueling massive algal blooms, to zebra mussel invasion, and the continuing loss of wetlands due to drainage, FortWhyte has recognized the need to broaden the public’s awareness. Thanks to a successful series of funding requests, we will be increasing our efforts towards improving water quality in our lakes, while promoting education and action through partnerships within the Lake Winnipeg Watershed.

Want to get involved?

Did you know that willows, a common shrub in wet areas, are great shoreline soil stabilizers? On September 30, we’re calling all green thumbs to FortWhyte Alive for assistance in planting willows and Manitoba Maples along our shorelines, with the goal of enriching biodiversity and reducing shoreline erosion. Contribute to a community project while learning how you can use this same technique on riverbank property or at the cottage. Event page: https://www.fortwhyte.org/event/willowplanting/?instance_id=13224

Collaborating with Lake Winnipeg Foundation’s Community Based Monitoring Network, FortWhyte Alive has begun to offer water monitoring teacher workshops and outreach to schools. This gives young people the experience of testing water quality in their own community, and to use sampling protocol that allows schools to contribute to scientific data regarding the level of phosphorus in Winnipeg’s waterways. Members of the public can also take part in phosphorus sampling as citizen scientists. Please visit www.fortwhyte.org/watermonitoring and www.lakewinnipegfoundation.org/monitoring-our-waterways for more information.

  1. Managing Wildlife Damage: Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) https://pubs.ext.vt.edu/420/420-203/420-203.html