History

Lake Winnipeg watershed: then and now

  • Sep 23, 2015
  • 448 words
  • 2 minutes
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In 2006, Allan Casey wrote about Lake Winnipeg in Canadian Geographic, regrettably calling Canada’s sixth largest freshwater lake “forgotten.” Almost a decade later, and this great lake still doesn’t get the same attention as its famous five cousins to the east.

Nowadays the Lake Winnipeg watershed does benefit from a number of initiatives that involve a greater diversity of players than those Casey met in 2006 when he interviewed Claire Herbert, then a field science supervisor on the Lake Winnipeg Research Consortium’s MV Namao.

Herbert remains a dynamo and now works as the coordinator of the Lake Winnipeg Basin Information Network at the University of Manitoba. She is dedicated to developing a centralized data portal to make data sets accessible to all who would study the region.

“It is still a forgotten lake,” she says, “although work and funding are still going into Lake Winnipeg. The attention has shifted from the lake to the watershed as a whole. Now government effort is complemented by more NGO’s, community activity and municipalities focused on not only the water but also the land.”

The OPEN Water Project is one of the new players in the Lake Winnipeg Watershed.

OPEN Water aims to help students and teachers in the four states and four provinces within the watershed to gather, analyze and share information on the water in the basin. The project draws on geospatial technology, traditional land-based knowledge, geographic thinking and citizen science.

Herbert says she sees the value of OPEN Water as a way to encourage citizen science as a means of supplying information and as an avenue to broader public engagement.

Connie Wyatt Anderson, OPEN Water Project leader and Chair of Canadian Geographic Education, grew up in Manitoba and appreciates the enduring value of the lakes in the watershed.

“Spending summers on the shores of Lake Winnipegosis at Dawson Bay — in my mind, Lake Winnipeg’s little brother — I realized very young the living aspects of Manitoba’s inland seas. The lakes form the arterial centre of the Lake Winnipeg Watershed, connecting millions of people who will benefit from the OPEN Water project with its purpose of safeguarding the basin we call home,” Anderson says.

Connie and her fellow members of the OPEN Water project want to ensure that today’s students throughout the basin are informed about and committed to the future of the watershed in ways that ensure it will never be forgotten.

The OPEN Water Project is a trans-boundary initiative of Canadian Geographic Education, the Minnesota Alliance for Geographic Education (MAGE) and the North Dakota Geographic Alliance (NDGA) with support from the National Geographic Education Foundation.

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