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Group starts social movement to protect Lake Winnipeg

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Ella Bergen, 4, cools off in Lake Winnipeg at Grand Beach last summer. A new social movement has begun, designed to guard and preserve our waters.

JOE BRYKSA / FREE PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

Ella Bergen, 4, cools off in Lake Winnipeg at Grand Beach last summer. A new social movement has begun, designed to guard and preserve our waters.

A group dedicated to protecting and reclaiming Lake Winnipeg wants each one of us to be an 'aquavist'.

That’s the term employed by the organization Lake Friendly for what it hopes will become a social movement for safeguarding water everywhere.

The campaign is sponsored by municipalities surrounding Lake Winnipeg's south basin along with the federal and provincial governments and private interests. Its $40,000 initial cost is being underwritten by Manitoba Hydro and the Winnipeg Foundation. Its aim is to involve everybody.

"We’ve got to learn how to behave and treat water differently. We’ve got to have a new respect for water," said RM of St. Andrews Reeve Don Forfar at Monday’s campaign kickoff in Winnipeg that drew municipal and provincial politicians, scientists and activists — or aquavists.

Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Gord Mackintosh said the all-time worst year for phosphorus loading in the south basin of Lake Winnipeg was in 2005. Since then, concentrations have gone down 21 per cent, he said, but there is much more work to be done.

Mackintosh said if Manitoba is to prevail upon neighbouring provinces and U.S. states (whose lands drain into Lake Winnipeg) to do their part, it needs to set a good example.

"The aquavist program is one more example of how Manitoba is providing that leadership," he said.

Manitoba recently announced a surface water management strategy to protect wetlands and manage runoff to prevent nutrient loading of streams and lakes. It is also working with other levels of government on waste water upgrades in 27 communities, including Winnipeg.

But the point of the aquavist program is that water quality is everybody’s business, said Lake Friendly executive director Colleen Sklar.

"We have to quit pointing fingers and engage all Manitobans," she said. "We have to treat water as if we have to drink it."

For more information, visit aquavist.ca.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Monday, June 23, 2014 at 6:18 PM CDT: updates with more details and quotes

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