For Manitoba, an abundance of clean, reliable freshwater is the centrepiece to the province’s economic and social infrastructure. From clean drinking water and agricultural irrigation to hydroelectric power and recreational activities, the very identity of Manitoba is built upon its freshwater supply.

The upper Manitoba Great Lakes (MBGL – Lakes Manitoba, Winnipegosis and Waterhen) act as filters that intercept nutrient flow from the Lake Winnipeg watershed, both as natural nutrient sinks and especially through the operation of the Portage Diversion. Extreme weather, an important aspect of climate change, can affect freshwater hydrology and water quality at local, regional and hemispherical scales. This includes effects such as direct lake warming (intensification of in-lake processes) and increased nutrient and contaminant movement from runoff and flooding due to high-intensity precipitation events.

Unfortunately, the physical, chemical, biological, and geological processes in the lakes are not well understood. Therefore, we have a poor ability to predict the responses and understand the effects downstream in Lake Winnipeg and into Hudson Bay. This leads to lake management and governance being decided without adequate scientific support.

Basic baseline information such as water chemistry and documentation of physical parameters for two of the three lakes had never been conducted, and the last full lake survey for Lake Manitoba occurred in 2011. In 2016, the Centre for Earth Observation Science (CEOS) at the University of Manitoba expanded its mooring project to include open water sampling. Sample sites were established on all three lakes to measure physical parameters such as conductivity, temperature, depth, oxygen and light, as well as taking water samples to measure water chemistry and biological samples for algae and zooplankton.

At the University of Manitoba, we are also studying nutrient forcing of algal biomass and associated algal toxins. We look at water quality indicators such as chlorophyll, suspended solids and dissolved organic carbon and can use them to create a map of chlorophyll concentration in surface water on Lake Winnipeg. These methods combined with satellite data can be used for early detection of algal blooms and identify potential sites where algal toxins may occur.


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Dr. David Barber

Distinguished Professor
Canada Research Tier 1
Scientific Director, Centre for Earth Observation Science
Associate Dean (Research), Clayton H. Riddell Faculty of Environment, Earth & Resources

Dr. Greg McCullough

Research Associate
Science Coordinator, Manitoba Great Lakes Program

Dr. Tim Papakyriakou

C.H.R. Faculty of Environment, Earth and Resources

Access to clean water is a basic human right. Our research helps the University fulfill their commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6 - Access to Clean Water and Sanitation

Research Output

Sensitivity of freshwater dynamics to ocean model resolution and river discharge forcing in the Hudson Bay Complex

Ridenour, Natasha A., Xianmin Hu, Shabnam Jafarikhasragh, Jack C. Landy, Jennifer V. Lukovich, Tricia A. Stadnyk, Kevin Sydor, Paul G. Myers, and David G. Barber. 2019. “Sensitivity of Freshwater Dynamics to Ocean Model Resolution and River Discharge Forcing in the Hudson Bay Complex.” Journal of Marine Systems 196: 48–64.

Climate in the Lake Winnipeg Watershed and the Level of Lake Winnipeg

McCullough, Greg. 2015. Commissioned report for the Clean Environment Commission.

Hydrological forcing of a recent trophic surge in Lake Winnipeg

McCullough, Gregory K., Stephen J. Page, Raymond H. Hesslein, Michael P. Stainton, Hedy J. Kling, Alex G. Salki, and David G. Barber. 2012. “Hydrological Forcing of a Recent Trophic Surge in Lake Winnipeg.” Journal of Great Lakes Research 38 (January): 95–105.

Investigating the Temporal Scales of Nutrient transport in a Prairie Watershed using High-Frequency Hydrological and Water Quality Data

Penner, Amber,  Ali, Genevieve, Ross, Cody. 2013. Presentation for the American Geophysical Union, San Francisco, CA


Liu, Jiangui; Hirose, Tom; Kapfer, Mark; Bennett, John; McCullough, Greg; Hocheim, Klaus; Stainton, Michael, Our Common Borders – Safety, Security, and the Environment Through Remote Sensing October 28 – November 1, 2007,Ottawa, Ontario, Canada


Water Weather Keeper Program - Manitoba Metis Federation

Water-weather keeper and water quality monitor pilot programs were developed in coordination with the MMF and were designed to build Métis capacity in water quality management activities and increase Métis ability to make science-based decisions about climate and nutrient issues in the basin. These programs will underpin a co-developed and jointly managed monitoring network that will allow for a system-level understanding of how the MBGL respond to land-use change and variability in weather, including those elements influenced by regional changes in climate.

Related Publications

View publications related to our research area

Lake Winnipeg Basin Indicator Series

Environment and Climate Change Canada, Agriculture and Resource Development. 2018. Lake Winnipeg Basin Indicator Series Gatineau, QC. Environment and Climate Change Canada

Lake Winnipeg Basin Indicator Series - Fish Populations

Environment and Climate Change Canada, Agriculture and Resource Development. 2018. Lake Winnipeg Basin Indicator Series - Fish Populations. Gatineau, QC. Environment and Climate Change Canada

State of Lake Winnipeg, 2nd Edition, Technical Report

Environment and Climate Change Canada, Agriculture and Resource Development, Water . 2020. “State of Lake Winnipeg, 2nd Edition, Technical Report.” Gatineau, QC. Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Lake Manitoba and its Watershed: Knowledge Gaps & Next Steps

Lake Manitoba Working Group. 2016. “Lake Manitoba and its Watershed: Knowledge Gaps & Next Steps” Winnipeg, MB

State of Lake Winnipeg: 1999 to 2007

Environment Canada, Manitoba Water Stewardship. 2011. "State of Lake Winnipeg: 1999 to 2007

2019 Lake Winnipeg Basin Program Symposium Summary Report

Environment and Climate Change Canada. 2019. “2019 Lake Winnipeg Basin Program Symposium Summary Report.” Winnipeg, MB.

Click to view the complete Lake Winnipeg Basin Symposium 2019 Program


Program Highlights


Manitoba Great Lakes Program DataSet Main Page

Barber, D., Papakyriakou, T. (2018) "Manitoba Great Lakes Program",, Canadian Watershed Information Network (CanWIN), V1

MBGL Sample Collection and Processing Protocols

Herbert, C, Kamula, M. (2019). MBGL Freshwater Sampling Protocols, Version 1.3. Center for Earth Observation Science. University of Manitoba.

For further information contact:
Claire Herbert - Claire.Herbert (at)

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