William (Bill) Barlow was involved in small town politics for decades. He also served on bigger stages and for years was the chair of the Lake Winnipeg Stewardship Board. That group was tasked by Manitoba’s Minister of Water Stewardship to produce a report about the state of the lake, which was presented in December 2006. It was a hard hitting document with 135 recommendations, all of which were quickly accepted by the provincial government.

But not much happened. So, three years later, Barlow’s board wrote a follow-up. If you translated that second report from its careful diplomatic language, what it was saying was: “what the hell…?”. In what passes as strong language from a careful politician like Barlow, he concluded the Message from the Chair of the second report in an unambiguous statement. “It’s time to go further than just thinking about action; the time for implementing action is now. We’ve only just begun to reverse what we have done.”

Like a time capsule from the past, here are some of the alarms about Lake Winnipeg from the initial report published 14 years ago. Sadly, most of these cautions are still relevant today.

There is an urgency surrounding the recommendations contained in this report. Algal blooms on Lake Winnipeg continue to increase in frequency, duration, and intensity, an ominous sign that the lake is not well.

By far, not enough is happening in the watershed that might first initiate a slow-down, and secondly a reduction, of nutrient loading to the lake to restore the health of Lake Winnipeg.

Now is the time to accept our collective responsibility, and to support a commitment to action for the benefit of Lake Winnipeg.

We cannot wait. The time for action is now!

… must not delay the implementation of the plan, since there is enough information and experience at hand to begin the task

What we have seen on Lake Winnipeg in recent years demands our immediate attention. We all share responsibility for the future of the lake and as such, must make a commitment to restore its health. There is a sense of urgency in what we must do.

We cannot afford to wait.

From Reducing Nutrient Loading to Lake Winnipeg and its Watershed Our Collective Responsibility and Commitment to Action Report to the Minister of Water Stewardship by the Lake Winnipeg Stewardship Board, December 2006

This is the second of several full interviews I’ll be posting as this co-creation continues. Why am I putting this out? I figure that if others listen to what Barlow has to say it will help identify the key insights needed to build this story. Let me know what stands out for you.

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