When we look at a rural landscape and compare it to a city landscape, the differences are obvious. Rural landscapes consist of open fields, farmland and forests. People who live in rural areas are more spread out on larger properties than city inhabitants. There are fewer houses and streets, office buildings, shopping malls and huge parking lots.
Since there are fewer impervious surfaces and no storm drains to carry stormwater away, most stormwater soaks into the ground. However, excess water on agricultural land is undesirable. Therefore a complex network of drains has been built across our province.
In some areas, wetlands (nature’s kidneys) have been drained to speed up the removal of excess water from agricultural land. This drainage water also carries with it contaminants that can degrade water quality. More must be done to ensure these valuable nutrients stay on the land where they can be used by growing groups, rather than moving into waterways where they fuel the growth of algal blooms.
Fortunately, the importance these wetlands hold in our ecosystem is getting more and more recognition. The Manitoba Government has partnered with non-governmental organizations and landowners to promote wetland conservation, protection, or restoration through their GROW initiative.
The GROW initiative provides funds to farmers to keep their prairie potholes. It focuses on "farming the best, conserving the rest." Projects aim to improve watershed resilience, water quality, on-farm water management and biodiversity. It's a positive step in the right direction.
Most people in rural areas get their drinking water from underground wells that are drilled on their property. Unlike city drinking water, water from underground wells does not undergo a purification process at a filtration plant.
Because the water is often not treated before it goes into the home, the location and protection of the well are critical. When pollution is carried into the soil, it is considered groundwater pollution. To make sure it's safe to drink the water, it should be tested and disinfected regularly.
For rural residents, wastewater often goes from the house into a septic or holding tank. Liquids from septic tanks move from the tank to the ground into areas called septic fields. Solids must be pumped out by a pumper truck and taken to a sewage treatment facility regularly.
It is important to maintain septic tanks and septic fields so that they do not contribute to the pollution of surrounding water sources.
Stormwater must also be managed on a rural landscape to ensure that runoff containing nutrients or pollutants does not enter our waters.
For more ways to protect fresh water, visit our website and learn how to do what matters.