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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

TCMW Overview

27 June 2011

The Tobacco Creek Model Watershed (TCMW) is now developing to facilitate cumulative effects monitoring and agri-ecosystem sustainability research for the Red River Valley and Lake Winnipeg Basin. Tobacco Creek is a 1000 km2 subwatershed within south-central Manitoba (Figure). The TCMW is a partnership of: farmers, community members, the agriculture industry, government policy-makers and decision-makers, and scientific researchers. Beyond this, private and philanthropic funding is being secured to support the TCMW. As part of its evolution, a community meeting (involving residents, agriculture sector, and government participants) was held in the watershed to develop initial priorities. Following this, a science meeting occurred to assist in clarifying the TCMW research questions. A decision-making structure which formalizes this shared priority-setting process (a partnership between stakeholders and researchers) has been developed.

Figure: TCMW Minor Watersheds/Location


TCMW Contacts

27 June 2011

Les McEwan, Chair
Tobacco Creek Model Watershed
Box 28 Altamont, Manitoba CANADA  R0G 0A0
Tel. 1-204-744-2344
Email: mcewan_les @ (remove spaces)
Community Vision for the Future of Agriculture

Dr. David Lobb, Co-Chair
TCMW Watershed Science Advisory Ctte.
c/o University of Manitoba – Soil Science Department
276 Ellis Bldg. University of Manitoba
Winnipeg, Manitoba CANADA R3T 2N2
Tel. 1-204-474-9319
Email: lobbda @ (remove spaces)

Dr. Selena Randall
Research Development Coordinator
Watershed Systems Research Program
University of Manitoba
322 Ellis Building
Winnipeg, Manitoba CANADA R3T 2N2
Tel. 1-204-891-1287
Email: randall @ (remove spaces)

Dr. Henry Venema, Co-Chair
TCMW Community Partnership Mgmt. Ctte.
c/o International Institute for Sustainable Development
161 Portage Avenue East
Winnipeg, Manitoba CANADA R3B 0Y4
Tel. 1-204-958-7706
Email: hvenema @ (remove spaces)

Bryan Oborne, TCMW Partner Communications
c/o Panterra Management Ltd.
Tel: 1-204-885-7308 Fax: 1-204-885-7312
Email: panterraman @ (remove spaces)
Integrated Policy and Governance Solutions for Complex
Land, Water, Wildlife, and Community Challenges