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Water Today Title July 7, 2022

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Updated 2017/4/27
Holiday Water Report 2017



By Ronan O'Doherty

To celebrate Canada's sesquicentennial, Parks Canada has decided to let Canadians and visitors to the country enjoy some of its awe-inspiring wilderness without paying an admission fee.

With a view to preparing travellers for their upcoming trips, Watertoday has contacted many of the parks across the country province-by-province to find out a little bit about the parks themselves and of course their water quality.

Today we explore the National Parks of Manitoba.

Currently there are two in the province; Riding Mountain National Park, which sits atop the Manitoba Escarpment about a three hour drive from Winnipeg; and Wapusk National Park, located along the western shores of Hudson Bay in the North East of the province.

On average, Riding Mountain receives about 300,000 visitors per year. Representatives from the park were unable to speculate on how much that would increase this year but they did point out that they will be putting in some extra preparation to ensure this year's bumper crop of tourists has an enjoyable time while maintaining the park's integrity.

"Campers reserving in the Wasagaming Campground for 2017 are sure to enjoy newly surfaced roads, upgrades to shower and washroom facilities, and the addition of electric and/or water services to an additional 128 campsites," Rae Kingdon, Public Relations and Communications Officer for Riding Mountain National Park wrote in an email to this reporter.

Kingdon also mentioned that extra students are being hired by the parks to man the gates, work in the campgrounds, as well as help with the interpretation program.

She was able to confirm that Parks Canada will increase the number of cleaning and maintenance crews so that facilities are properly maintained and that garbage does not attract wildlife.

"As visitation levels increase and Parks Canada welcomes more people to our national parks, we are encouraging shoulder season visitation and promoting less-frequented and less-sensitive areas of our parks," Kingdon wrote," During peak periods, Parks Canada staff will help direct visitors to less-frequented but equally compelling and breathtaking locations within the park like Whirlpool Lake and Deep Lake Campgrounds, as well as the Agassiz Day Use Area."

Drinking water is available to visitors staying in Riding Mountain National Park's town site of Wasagaming. It is sourced from Clear Lake, located in the heart of Wasagaming, and processed through the town site's water treatment plant.

Day use areas and campgrounds outside of the town site have access to water from wells equipped with hand pumps. All these sources have boil water advisories in place, so visitors also have the option to bring their own water supply.

Kingdon explained that the town site of Wasagaming's water supply is monitored 7 days a week and there is various quality testing that is done throughout the water plant as well as the distribution system.

"In the event of a water advisory, notification signs would be posted at all locations where water can be accessed. Signs would also be posted at the entry to the park, at the kiosk, administration building, visitor centre, and other key locations," wrote Kingdon.

While Riding Mountain National Park gives visitors a nice little taste of the wilderness, it's not nearly as off-the-beaten-track as its sister park to the North, Wapusk.

Those who make it to the park aren't the sort to stop through in their station wagon for a quick day trip. Due to its remote location, it is primarily researchers and adventure travelers who make the commitment to visiting, as access to the park is gained primarily by helicopter or over-snow vehicle.

According to Jodi Duhard, Public Relations and Communications Officer for Parks Canada's Manitoba Field Unit, "Few visitors gain access to Wapusk National Park without the assistance of a licensed tour operator or as part of a planned research project. Parks Canada does not recommend visitors enter the park on their own due to the park’s remote location, its difficulty to access and the safety risks related to wildlife, i.e. polar bears."

"The park extends from Hudson Bay at its northern extremity to the edge of the boreal forest in the South, and encompasses 11,475 square kilometres of wilderness," Duhard wrote, "With a rare concentration of habitats for polar bears, birds and plants; Wapusk attracts researchers to the Churchill region from all over the world," adding, " It is recognized nationally and internationally for its significant biological diversity."

She informed us that there are four research camps in Wapusk. Three of the sites have potable water systems where raw water is sourced from either a small lake or from a river system. It is then processed through a 4 log filtration system, followed by UV light treatment. Two of these camps are also equipped with ceramic filters for emergency use; the other camp in the park has no water treatment system, so water must be brought in or boiled prior to use.

Duhard also wrote that Parks Canada staff may carry personal micro-filters and chemical treatment pills in their packs and emergency kits when entering the park.

As far as testing for quality goes, we were told that each of the research camps that house a potable water system is provided with a turbidity meter. The camp inhabitants are advised to take turbidity readings on a daily basis.

"If the water reading does not meet the required standards for drinking water," Duhard wrote, "They are requested to immediately issue a boil water advisory within the camp and contact Parks Canada’s Asset Management team at the Churchill office who will make the necessary corrections to ensure the water is safe to drink."

In addition, annual tests are performed during the summer in which water is sent to a certified lab and tested for E. Coli and coliforms. Additional tests are completed as required between 5-year and 12-year intervals.

In coming years, a new national park in Manitoba could spring up as well. The 2017 Federal Budget has designated the Manitoba Lowlands on the North shores of Lake Winnipeg as a future site. Details are sparse at the moment but it looks like Manitoba Lowlands would be a great addition to the already impressive pair of national parks that exist within the province.

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