Lake Winnipeg was listed as the most threatened lake in the world in 2013 by the Global Nature Fund. This is based on the increase in algal blooms which cover the water in thick greenish slime. Not only is the lake relatively shallow for its size, the sheer amount of land that drains into Lake Winnipeg makes finding solutions difficult. The issue has reached a critical point, and various efforts are underway to “Save Lake Winnipeg”. But what does that actually mean?
On World Water Day, March 22, 2014, The Manitoba Museum will launch Lake Winnipeg: Shared Solutions, one of the most ambitious exhibits in its Science Gallery. Shared Solutions asks the question, “How would you fix Lake Winnipeg?” Lake Winnipeg: Shared Solutions is the first $1 million-dollar plus exhibit to be built in the Museum’s Science Gallery and received financial and in-kind support from the International Institute of Sustainable Development, Manitoba Hydro, Royal Bank Blue Water Project, Manitoba Pork, Environment Canada’s EcoAction Community Funding Program, the Richardson Foundation, the Province of Manitoba, Manitoba Education, Lake Winnipeg Foundation and Canadian Wildlife Federation.
The centerpiece of the exhibit is a computer simulation of the Lake Winnipeg watershed, allowing visitors to make decisions which affect the health of the lake. As stewards of the lake, visitors must decide what problems to solve, and which solution has the desired effect.
“It’s not only about improving the lake,” says Scott Young, Manager of Science Communications and Visitor Experiences and the project leader for Shared Solutions. “Every decision has a cost, both in terms of economic impacts but also in the ‘social capital’ of the province – how happy people are with your choices.”
This approach allows visitors to explore the tough questions on how to save Lake Winnipeg, and see realistic outcomes based on their decisions. “Does the algae bloom get smaller, or bigger, based on your decision?” continues Young. “Does the economy topple due to the cost? Are people up in arms over your new laws? All of these factors are connected, and it’s why saving the lake is really a balancing act.”