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Watershed Research Proposals Now Being Accepted

10 August 2011

Tobacco Creek, MB – Scientific researchers seeking to advance society’s understanding of flooding, nutrient loading, and biological health in agricultural watersheds are encouraged to explore emerging opportunities in the Tobacco Creek Model Watershed (TCMW).

See: TCMW_Announcement_ltr.pdf

Relevant Websites:

CWN Proposal Call Weblink

14 July 2011

The current proposal call managed by the Canadian Water Network is available via the CWN website at:

Appendix A to the call is included as part of the main RFP document. Additional appendices are available in the post below.

CWN Proposal Call Appendices

14 July 2011

Appendix A to the call is included as part of the main RFP document via the CWN website.

Appendix B contains three items, as below:
TCMW Management and Research Plan: 2004-TCMW_plan
STC Project Steering Role/Process: 2007-TCMW-STC_RoleProcess-27Feb
STC Project Acceptance: 2007-TCMW-STC_ProjectAcceptAgree27Feb

Appendix C: Background Documents
Relevant Background Research: 2011-TCMW_Background_Research-15Jul
Sample CWN Projects: TCMW_Sample_Projects.pdf

Appendix D: TCMW Proposal to CWN
Final TCMW Research Consortium Proposal: 2011-TCWM-CWN_Final-15Apr

Canadian Water Network Decision

27 June 2011

After an exhaustive national competition, initial scientific research funding of $600k was announced for the TCWM by the Canadian Water Network on 27 June 2011. A formal RFP for NCE Tri-Council-eligible researchers will occur on approximately 15 July, with proposals evaluated by an international panel of watershed experts. Research projects will commence early in 2012. Please see:

CWN news release: CWN_Announcement

TCMW Update and Thank You: TCMW Update and Thank You


27 June 2011

Led by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Watershed Evaluation of Beneficial Management Practices (WEBs) has been underway since 2004. Many partners, including Ducks Unlimited Canada have played key roles in supporting this research. More details are available at:

The Deerwood Small Dam Network

27 June 2011

The Deerwood Soil and Water Management Association began establishing partnerships and delivering conservation programs in 1984. Between 1985 and 1996, 50 small headwater retention structures (small dams) were constructed by the association, primarily on the upland tributaries of two watersheds: Graham Creek and Tobacco Creek. A majority of the structures are located on the South Tobacco Creek (STC) watershed. A total of 26 Deerwood dams have water management impacts in the STC area (Figure). Three Deerwood dam designs exist:

1) Dry Dam/Flood Control Structures serve to decrease peak flows during spring snow melt and summer rainstorm runoff events by retaining water for a short period of time;
2) Backflood Dams retain water at a shallow depth over large acreages of annually and/or pasture cropped lands. Water is retained for at least two weeks before being released, thereby greatly increasing soil moisture in the flooded area to the benefit of crops and wildlife;
3) Multi-Purpose Dams are designed to reduce peak flow during spring snow melt and summer rainstorm runoff events by retaining water for a short period of time, and to store water for summer use. 50% of the dam storage capacity is retained for seasonal use. This may include stock watering, small scale irrigation, wildlife habitat, fish rearing, and groundwater recharge.

Figure: Deerwood’s small dam network has reduced local flooding
and erosion an related infrastructure damage

The small dams store water in pools which are generally the size of small ponds. They have reduced damaging peak stormwater and spring runoff flows by up to 90% at individual sites. At the base of the 29 square mile watershed, peak flow reduction has been measured at 25% (AAFC 1995). Deerwood’s efforts are now saving two local municipalities in excess of $50k per year in reduced costs for the maintenance and repair of roads, bridges, and drainage ditches. These savings are expected to occur for at least 50 years into the future (Oborne 1995). Many other jurisdictions have been exploring adoption of this approach, which may result in significant returns for farmers, municipalities, and the environment. Many small dams are located in former wetland areas (Figure).

Figure: Deerwood dam sites, South Tobacco Creek Sub-watershed

Twenty-six headwater retention structures now manage 30% of the 18,000 acre South Tobacco Creek watershed, resulting in a 25% reduction in overall peak flows. Local, high intensity runoff has been reduced by as much as 90% downstream of individual dams (AAFC 1995). At various rainfall runoff intensities, the modeled effect of Deerwood’s dams have been compared with those estimated for a larger control structure. Projected peak flow impacts indicate comparable effects, particularly with more common runoff intensities (i.e. 1:50 events). Trends of: reduced flooding and soil erosion, improved water quality, and lengthened runoff periods would be expected according to the PFRA model, which predicts Deerwood’s dams to be effective in reducing peak flows throughout the watershed by 25% and 19% in summer storms and spring snowmelts respectively (Figure).

Figure (AAFC 1995):
Individual Deerwood dams have reduced downstream peak flows by 90%, while 26 dams within the South Tobacco Creek watershed have been estimated to reduce overall peak flows by 25%.

Early Mismanagement

27 June 2011

Instances of flooding and erosion damage within the Tobacco Creek region have been well documented. In 1979, a 50 year spring runoff event resulted in one municipality claiming damages under the Manitoba Flood Damage Assistance Plan totaling $24,850. Agricultural productivity losses were estimated at more than $828,000. Site-specific damages for two sites for the 1979 event have also been estimated by MEHSSC (1988). At one location, damages occurred over 580 ha. (1440 acres), with associated total costs of $320,000. A second site experienced flooding and erosion over 3000 ha. (7500 acres) with damages estimated at $1,200,000. This site also experienced a severe thunderstorm event in 1986, affecting 1800 ha (4500 acres) and costing an additional $340,000.

An example of current water damage/costs in Manitoba:

Upstream Flow and Downstream Impact

Watersheds for Management and Monitoring

27 June 2011

Resources – human, financial, and natural, are the foundations of community development. In order to improve their own livelihoods, civilizations of people have attempted to manage the resources around them for millennia. Whether by accident or by design, watersheds – natural boundaries within which landscape drainage occurs toward common receiving bodies of water – have been managed for survival and societal enhancement, and with varying degrees of success.

Watersheds have served to integrate societies sharing the same drainage area through the provision of water power, irrigation, domestic water supply, fish, wildlife, and transportation. Since the dawn of agricultural society, drainage and irrigation have been major forces behind efforts to manage and/or develop the land resources of a watershed region.

Scientists recognized the watershed during the early 1960s as a sensible framework within which to address interrelated problems of public concern relating to environmental degradation. As any investigations aimed at addressing such chronic concerns would be both expensive and long-lasting, the approach of “taking the whole watershed into account” evolved as an efficient and practical means of tackling these issues with the support of science.

According to Heindl (1972), two pervasive concepts founded the discipline:

1) The watershed is a closed-system which integrates the numerous physical forces which act upon it; and
2) Under similar land use, geographic, climatic conditions much of the knowledge and experience gained through the study of one watershed is transferable to other areas.

These common drainage areas should be meaningful to the people who live in them and use their resources. They should also be manageable so that local governance entities such as local municipalities, conservation districts, and other community stakeholders may in fact have significant influence in improving their condition.

If provided an opportunity, and if provided clear information regarding related federal and provincial policy objectives, it is our proposition that the residents of any given watershed which meets the meaningful and manageable scale test will come to a reasonable consensus regarding a set of common goals to which they can all aspire.

Across the Canadian Prairies, many watershed-based initiatives are developing – through which the shared interests of local residents are being prioritized for action through extensive community consultation and watershed-planning processes. These common watershed-based interested may be described as Watershed Community Goals.

Private agricultural landowners are also watershed community residents who have a massive and daily influence on the contributing watershed landscape. Their perceptions are shaped by their needs and views. Convincing farmers that a new government policy or program is worthwhile will be easier if it makes sense in light of the watershed community goals they have already come to appreciate.

TCMW Goals

27 June 2011

The unique combination of location, geography, and existing background information available in the Tobacco Creek Model Watershed (TCMW) provides a timely opportunity to collect multivariate data, replicate conditions, conduct comparative research, and demonstrate innovative agriculture-environment solutions within a variety of soil types and physiographic regions relevant to the entire Lake Winnipeg Basin – and particularly the Red River Valley, the single greatest source of nutrient loads entering Lake Winnipeg – combined with flooding challenges, and related biodiversity concerns. The TCMW offers a powerful platform for conducting the type of watershed systems research required to advance the new a vision of agricultural sustainability which many producers are seeking. Further, the proposed research will facilitate the development of a monitoring framework that will assist government policy-makers and decision-makers in designing and delivering more effective and efficient policy instruments to address pressing water quality, quantity, and biodiversity challenges issues that exist today (e.g. Lake Winnipeg nutrient loading), as well as emerging issues for the future (e.g. pesticides, pathogens, pharmaceuticals, and endocrine disruptors).

As developed through the TCMW Management and Research Plan, the TCMW Integrated Goals are focused on:

• Improving Net Farm Income and Landscape Diversity;
• Building Producer Participation and Scientific Monitoring;
• Planning for Drought, Storage, and Water Management;
• Protecting Water Quality and Riparian Areas; and
• Addressing Drainage and Fisheries Habitat Issues.

TCMW Background

27 June 2011

The Tobacco Creek Model Watershed (TCMW) initiative has been evolving as a logical extension of Deerwood’s agri-environmental partnership-building and research progress associated with the 79 km2 South Tobacco Creek Project (STC). During the early 1990s, it became clear that many area farmers and some local governments (rural municipalities) were experiencing measurable economic and environmental benefits from STC watershed management experiments. However, these benefits were decidedly local in nature, and beginning in 1999, increasing efforts focused on exploring the potential for expanding the STC experience.

The concurrent rise of Manitoba’s Water Strategy and its identified mission to be “a leader in integrated water and land use planning and management on a watershed basis” suggested to Deerwood that the time was right to begin establishing a “living watershed laboratory.” Members of the Deerwood Association knew there would be an eventual need for solid watershed science, and for scientific evaluation of the effectiveness of the various strategies, policies, and practices which may be employed in attempts to improve sustainability across Manitoba’s agricultural landscape.

Deerwood members also realized that complete community support of any significant watershed initiatives would be required for meaningful change to occur on the agricultural landscape. Deerwood began discussing these issues and opportunities with its scientific research partners and meeting with area rural municipalities whose day-to-day decisions were somehow influenced by the natural and human-influenced realities of Tobacco Creek. Deerwood and its community partners, including the RMs of Dufferin, Lorne, Morris, Roland, and Thompson (Figure) developed and secured several private and public funding proposals to advance their watershed planning work. Soon joined by Pembina Valley, and later, the La Salle Redboine Conservation Districts, a well-represented Community Committee evolved to shape the TCMW. All municipalities have made cash and in-kind contributions which have been received and/or pledged to support future work.

Figure: TCMW Rural Municipalities

TCMW Rural Municipalities