The Kidney’s in our Neighbourhoods are Full!

Look around and you will see that all the storm water retention ponds in our neighbourhoods are full – probably the fullest some of them have ever been! PLEASE take care and keep your distance from the water as it will remain high for some time now that the grounds are saturated.

I feel compelled to provide some background about these ‘ponds or lakes’ as I’ve found many people aren’t exactly clear on their true purpose. Periodically I receive calls requesting the City to ‘cut down’ the bulrushes and grasses as it block the view of the lake.

By no fault of their own, many people are not aware of that these Manitoba native plants and grasses around the ponds, and the ponds themselves are an absolutely integral piece of our larger eco system.

I grew up in the Interlake, in an area known for decades as ‘the bog’ where fields were full of bulrushes, grasses, and ponds of water. These wet ponds on the fields drove my dad, and many farmers crazy as they reduced the amount of farmland they had! Today, much of this area is now known preserved and known as Oak Hammock Marsh. Through the work of Ducks Unlimited, I’ve gained incredible insight to the value of wetlands, and to the ponds we have in our neighbourhoods. Its these ponds, and other large wetland areas, that filter the toxins and keep our rivers and lakes clean, much like our kidneys filter the toxins from our bodies. Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation estimates upwards of 90% of wetlands have been lost in Manitoba over the decades. Farmers drained the ponds, and development resulted in removal of ponds to build towns and cities. It’s the loss of these wetlands, or these kidneys, that is a key factor in causing the toxic algae’s in Lake Winnipeg.

The naturalized ponds in our neighbourhoods play a critically important role in the health of our rivers, streams and lakes. It is so important to keep the grasses and bulrushes intact as they are critical in cleaning the water, and ensuring the overall habitat is in balance. I encourage you to learn more about the benefits of Manitoba native plants, grasses and bulrushes around the ponds, and the value of the ponds themselves. Native Plant Solutions (who constructs most of the ponds in Winnipeg) created an excellent presentation on the construction and value of these naturalized ponds, https://clean.ns.ca/…/Native-Plant-Solutions-PPTX-SWIMS-Con… (Pg. 21 speaks to Bridgwater Ponds)

A quick summary:


PURPOSE OF PONDS

  • Store rainfall runoff from streets and adjacent lands allowing water to slowly enter the rivers vs gushing and flooding the land
  • Plants act as a natural filter by removing nitrogen, phosphorus and other chemicals before water drains to our rivers and lakes – much like our kidneys filter toxins from our body
  • Are an efficient and cost-effective land drainage system, because fewer pipes, and smaller pipes can be used to carry runoff to the rivers – YET – each pond costs millions to construct and plant
  • Provide habitat for wildlife and hundreds of species with safe places to eat, sleep and raise young
  • Actually increase assessment value of properties backing onto the ponds

TWO TYPES

There are essentially two types of storm water retention ponds in the City of Winnipeg:

  1. Ponds that have been naturalized and planted with Manitoba native plants, grasses and bulrushes
  2. Ponds that are essential dug out holes with no naturalized plant material around them (Extremely costly to maintain – see breakdown below – and costly to re-do to naturalize)

You can find both these types of retention ponds in our neighbourhoods. The older neighbourhoods have ponds that are NOT naturalized (Richmond West, Whyte Ridge, Waverley Heights) and the newer neighbourhoods have naturalized ponds (South Pointe, Neighbourhoods of Bridgwater and Prairie Pointe) The City of Winnipeg in partnership with a leading developer (Ladco Co.) installed the first naturalized storm water retention ponds in 2003, in the development of Royalwood. Now, because of their effectiveness in storing and cleaning water, and the many other benefits they bring, all new developments must install naturalized ponds.

The naturalized ponds are essentially ‘mini wetlands’.

  • ‘Wetlands are among the most productive natural ecosystems in the world, comparable to tropical rain forests or coral reefs; yet more than half of all wetlands on the Prairies have been lost or degraded since pioneer settlement. Along the Red Valley, upwards of 90% of wetlands have been lost. Today wetlands are increasingly recognized as integral components of a watershed, aiding in flood control, increasing local biodiversity, improving the quality of both surface and ground water, and providing aesthetic and recreational benefits to society. (Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation)

Along with the beauty and benefits they bring, the storm water retention ponds are truly the kidneys of our environment.

If you are fortunate enough to back onto a pond, please don’t mow/remove the grasses. If you want more information, please contact me: jlukes@winnipeg.ca