New Watershed District Act, a strong model

With the new year, comes a change to how water will be managed across Manitoba.

Our government has proclaimed legislation that formalizes a watershed-based approach to water management in the province, while supporting the goals of the Made-in-Manitoba Climate and Green Plan.

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Bill 7, The Watershed District Act, is the most comprehensive watershed legislation in Canada, addressing challenges with flood protection while reducing the load of harmful nutrients in our lakes and waterways and improving Manitoba’s overall water quality.

The Conservation District of Upper Assiniboine, Lake of the Prairies and Little Saskatchewan River will merge into the Assiniboine West Watershed District. Further south, the West Souris River Conservation District will move into the Souris River Watershed District. To the east, portions of the Rural Municipality of Minto-Odanah will move into the Assiniboine West, Central Assiniboine and Whitemud Watershed Districts.

We recognize the importance of wetlands, shorelines and riparian areas as unique ecosystems that provide ecological services vital to our environment and economy. This comprehensive strategy ensures drainage projects don’t lead to losses of certain classes of wetlands, in part by modernizing inspection and enforcement and by stiffening penalties for illegal drainage. The law also allows for nutrient targets to help measure the quality of water across jurisdictions.

The Watershed District Act sets out a foundation to implement GRowing Outcomes in Watersheds (GROW), which is programming for ecological goods and services that would give agricultural producers and landowners incentives to participate in restoring grasslands and wetlands, as well as in water retention projects and management of riparian areas.

The new legislation changes the Conservation Districts Act, the Manitoba Habitat Heritage Act, the Water Protection Act and the Water Rights Act. Among the many other benefits of the legislation is a strengthening of the planning and management of watersheds to allow for agreements with Indigenous communities.

Our government’s Watershed District Act has been lauded by the International Institute for Sustainable Development, Ducks Unlimited and Keystone Agricultural Producers. This legislation brings an effective and balanced approach to environmental and economic protection, and is a strong model for other jurisdictions to follow.

Greg Nesbitt is the Member of Legislative Assembly for the Riding Mountain constituency. He can be reached at 204-759-3313, toll-free 1-844-877-7767 or by email at gregnesbittmla@mymts.net.

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