February 20, 2006

Manitoba continues consultation on regs to reduce excessive nutrient levels

The Manitoba government is holding a second round of public information sessions to give provincial residents an opportunity to further discuss two proposed regulations and how they relate to land use planning, agriculture, municipalities and other activities. The open houses and workshops, being held during the second half of February and the first half of March, will focus on measures to protect Manitoba's water quality from excessive nutrient levels.

As a basis for these continued discussions, Water Stewardship Minister Steve Ashton and Conservation Minister Stan Struthers released an issues and options paper on proposed nutrient regulations for water quality management zones. The paper summarizes issues raised during the initial consultation on water quality management zones for nutrients, including a draft regulation under Manitoba's Water Protection Act, passed on June 16, 2005. The act creates a framework for improved water management and protection in Manitoba.

Water quality management zones will reduce the risk of nitrogen and phosphorus entering groundwater and runoff to streams, rivers and lakes. "The zones are an important tool that will ensure septic fields, lagoons and other sources of nutrients are properly located and that fertilizers, municipal wastewater sludge and animal manure are not applied in excessive amounts," said Struthers. "We need further public discussion on critical issues such as how the proposed regulations would apply to existing operations, how maps showing the zones would be used in decision-making, and what crop and soil-based nutrient limits are appropriate to adequately protect both surface and groundwater."

Participants will also be invited to provide comments and discuss the proposed phosphorus amendments to the Livestock Manure and Mortalities Management regulation which have been developed from the recommendations of the Manitoba Phosphorous Expert Committee. The proposed amendments are consistent with the proposed nutrient regulation for water quality management zones.

"The gradual but steady increase in nitrogen and phosphorus in water systems over the past several decades is probably one of the greatest water quality challenges facing not only Manitoba but other jurisdictions in Canada, the United States and Europe," Ashton said. "Through the Water Protection Act and initiatives like water quality management zones, we hope to reduce the loading of nutrients into our lakes and rivers, and bring Lake Winnipeg back to levels that existed before 1970."

Sessions have so far been held in Gimli and Brandon, with others slated for February 23 in Winkler, February 28 in Swan River, March 1 in Dauphin, March 2 in Winnipeg, March 8 in Lac du bonnet and March 9 in Steinbach.

The issues and options paper may be requested from Manitoba Water Stewardship, 204/945-7100, Web site www.gov.mb.ca/waterstewardship/wqmz. Copies of the proposed amendments to the Livestock Manure and Mortalities Management regulation are available from Manitoba Conservation, 204/945-7100, Web site www.gov.mb.ca/conservation/regoperations/livestock/index.html.

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