two researchers on a boat in Lake Winnipeg, one is lowering a net into the water.
Photo by Whitney Light

Background

For Manitoba, an abundance of clean, reliable freshwater is the centrepiece to the province’s economic and social infrastructure. From clean drinking water and agricultural irrigation to hydroelectric power and recreational activities, the very identity of Manitoba is built upon its freshwater supply.

The upper Manitoba Great Lakes (Lake Manitoba, Winnipegosis and Waterhen) include the 27th (Winnipegosis) and 32nd (Manitoba) largest lakes in the world.  They are important drinking water sources for the people who live near their shores, and important recreational and fisheries resources for the region and the Province as a whole.  Moreover, they help to protect Lake Winnipeg by filtering nutrients and contaminants in runoff from its western watershed. In particular, the operation of the Portage Diversion during flood events has effectively shifted significant fractions of the Assiniboine River nutrient and contaminant load from the south basin of Lake Winnipeg to the south basin of Lake Manitoba, with undocumented impacts on the latter.

Research

Project team

  • Dr. David Barber
    Project Lead

    Dr. Tim Papakyriakou
    Project Lead

    Dr. Greg McCullough
    Science Advisor 

    Claire Herbert
    Program Manager
    MBGL

    Hedy Kling
    Algal Specialist
    Algal Taxonomy and Ecology Inc.

  • Researchers

    Katelyn Rodgers
    Graduate student

    Agoston Fischer
    Graduate student

    Shae-Lynn Laurencelle
    Technician

    Casey Clair
    Technician

    Devin Hammett
    Technician

Impacts and outcomes

Access to clean water is a basic human right. Our research helps the University fulfill its commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6 - Access to Clean Water and Sanitation.

Benefits to Canada

Currently, the physical, chemical, biological and geological processes in the lakes are not well understood. Therefore, we have a poor ability to predict responses to change in factors such as climate, fishing pressure, and nutrient or contaminant loading from the watershed, or to understand impacts carried downstream to Lake Winnipeg, into Hudson Bay and the arctic. For example, climate change impacts include direct lake warming, which intensifies in-lake chemical and biological processes, and increasingly intense precipitation events. It is likely that this has led to increased runoff and more frequent flooding, and hence, increasing nutrient and contaminant transport from the watershed to the lakes, but we have no data to support this speculation. In Lake Manitoba, commercial catch of the most valuable species, pickerel, has declined by more than half since the 1980s. This may be due to pike in-migration through the Portage Diversion, or to high fishing pressure; we have too little information to know the cause. Most recently, in the summer of 2021, zebra mussel larvae were discovered in Lake Manitoba; again, without better information, the impact of this invasive species is a matter of conjecture. Overall, lake management and governance are being decided without adequate scientific support.

Through our multi-disciplinary research the MBGL program will provide biological and physical data to support science-based decision making in the Hudson Bay Watershed, at local, regional and hemispherical scales.

Reports

Key publications

View a selection of reports and publications related to our work

Lake Winnipeg Special Edition
In 2021, the Journal of Great Lakes Research published a collection of peer reviewed paywalled publications about Lake Winnipeg. MBGL researchers contributed multiple articles to this issue.

View Lake Winnipeg 2021 Special Issue

Related publications

  • Lake Winnipeg Basin Indicator Series
    Environment and Climate Change Canada, Agriculture and Resource Development. 2018. Lake Winnipeg Basin Indicator Series Gatineau, QC. Environment and Climate Change Canada.

  • State of Lake Winnipeg, 2nd Edition, Technical Report
    Environment and Climate Change Canada, Agriculture and Resource Development, Water . 2020. “State of Lake Winnipeg, 2nd Edition, Technical Report.” Gatineau, QC. Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Funding and partners

This work has been made possible in part with a contract from Health Canada.

  • environment and climate change canada logo.
  • lake winnipeg foundation logo.
  • algal taxonomy and ecology logo.
  • Manitoba Métis Federation logo.

Contact us

Centre for Earth Observation Science
535 Wallace Building
125 Dysart Rd.
University of Manitoba (Fort Garry campus)
Winnipeg, MB R3T 2N2 Canada

204-474-7602
204-272-1532