© Tommy Larey / Shutterstock Saguenay Fjord National Park in Quebec

FRESHWATER

Canada’s freshwater systems are facing increasing pressure every day from pollution, habitat loss, invasive species and climate change – among other threats. Yet, the greatest threat of all may be a lack of data.

For All of Earth’s Inhabitants — Water is Life

Canada’s lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands hold 20 per cent of the world’s freshwater. With such richness comes responsibility to protect watersheds for the wildlife and people who rely on them. But the stark reality is Canada’s freshwater ecosystems are in trouble. All 167 sub-watersheds are under threat and wildlife that rely on freshwater are also under threat.

We need better protections for our freshwater ecosystems. That hinges in part on something we don’t have. For decades, Canada has failed to collect information on a national scale about the health of our freshwater ecosystems.

With more data collection and access to accurate data, we can protect our freshwater systems and species.

Meet Our Experts

    Photo-of-Elizabeth-Hendriks-WWF

    Elizabeth Hendriks

    Vice President, Restoration and Regeneration

    Elizabeth Hendriks

    Vice President, Restoration and Regeneration

    With a lengthy background in water policy, Elizabeth leads WWF-Canada’s Freshwater team to reverse the decline of freshwater ecosystems across the country through policy, technology and community building. Elizabeth has considerable experience working internationally and nationally on water policy and led the release of the first national assessment of the health and stressors to Canada’s freshwater.

    Photo-of-Simon-Mitchell-WWF

    Simon J. Mitchell

    Vice President, Resilient Habitats

    Simon J. Mitchell

    Vice President, Resilient Habitats

    Simon leads WWF-Canada’s Resilient Habitats team, which works from coast to coast to coast protect landscapes, habitats and species.  A key function of Simons work is to identify strategies and actions across terrestrial and marine environments that improve the healthy and resilience of nature and people.

    Photo-of-Heather-Crochetiere

    Heather Crochetiere

    Senior Specialist, Freshwater

    Heather Crochetiere

    Senior Specialist, Freshwater

    After launching the Wild Rivers Project and co-ordinating WWF-Canada’s involvement in the Fisheries Act and Impact Assessment Act modernization processes, Heather is now empowering individuals and organizations to have impact via funding programs and supporting technology-based solutions. She holds a BSc from McMaster University and a MES from the University of Waterloo.

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© Eden Toth / WWF-Canada Katzie traditional territory near Alvin BC

Threats

Our water systems are facing increasing pressure every day. Growing populations are requiring more clean water. Increasing urbanization and agriculture are encroaching on freshwater habitats, causing loss and fragmentation. Increased demand for energy and resources means more pollution and obstructed water flows. A warming climate is resulting in changes to freshwater habitats.

At the same time, massive data deficiencies for basic freshwater health indicators means we don’t have an informed understanding of the total impact of human activities on our watersheds.

There is a growing awareness that safeguarding our freshwater ecosystems is critical to the future of our economies, our communities and our quality of life. We need to match this growing awareness with data to safeguard the future of wildlife and habitat, as well as communities that depend on freshwater ecosystems.

What WWF-Canada is Doing

For close to a decade, WWF has been a pioneer in freshwater conservation. WWF is working towards a future where all Canadian waters are in good condition, by building water-resilient communities, bringing big-water data to decision-making tables and creating a culture of water stewardship across the country. We’re working towards healthy waters across Canada. That goal has never been more important, or more achievable.

Learn More about the Projects WWF-Canada is Involved with to Promote Freshwater Health:

© WWF-Canada Scientist conducting water testing

Watershed Reports

Human activities are stressing Canada’s watersheds and a lack of comprehensive, open access water data means little to no knowledge of how those threats are impacting watershed health. In 2017, WWF-Canada completed the first-ever national assessment of Canada’s watersheds. We examined four indicators of health and seven indicators of threat to assign overall scores to each watershed. In 2020, WWF-Canada reassessed the health indicators for Canada’s 167 sub-watersheds to better understand the current state of our freshwater health. Read our Watershed Reports to learn more about the state of Canada’s watersheds.

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© Eden Toth / WWF-Canada Water monitoring in a river

Citizen Action

To reverse the decline of freshwater wildlife, we need to first understand the state of their watershed habitat. In 2019, Sequencing the Rivers for Environmental Assessment and Monitoring (STREAM) was launched, a partnership between WWF-Canada, Living Lakes Canada, the University of Guelph, Genome Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada. Each year, STREAM partners with individuals and community groups to engage them in community-based water monitoring to address river health across Canada.

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© Catherine Paquette / WWF-Canada Free flowing river

Free-flowing Rivers

Societies have gone to extraordinary lengths to harness the power and advantages of river systems. Unfortunately, these efforts have had negative impacts on the freshwater ecosystems and the wildlife that these rivers support. WWF-Canada conducted an assessment to identify Canada’s remaining free-flowing rivers and is working to ensure that development doesn’t come at the expense of river connectivity.

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© Heather Crochetiere / WWF-Canada View of a river in forest

The WWF-Canada Restoration Fund

The Restoration Fund, a partnership between WWF-Canada and Coca-Cola Canada, supports projects that aim to improve the health of Canada’s freshwater ecosystems through direct, on-the-ground initiatives.

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© Elodie Roger / Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society View of Somenos Marsh Conservation Area

Loblaw Water Fund

From 2014-2020, WWF-Canada supported community watershed stewardship through the Loblaw Water Fund. This project has engaged more than 16,000 volunteers, who have collected almost 15,000 fish, water and benthic macroinvertebrate samples and restored more than 3,300 hectares of habitat for freshwater species.

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© Terry Kelly / WWF-Canada Kayaking on Saint John River

Saint John River

WWF-Canada is working with local organizations, scientific experts, communities and river stewards to ensure a healthy and resilient Saint John River.

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© Anthony Merante / WWF-Canada View of Toronto skyline from Lake Ontario

Great Lakes

Over-salting has led to rapidly increasing levels of chloride in southern Ontario waters, where it’s having a devastating impact on the Great Lakes ecosystem. We want the Great Lakes to be #LessSalty.

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What You Can Do

North American beaver

Adopt a Beaver

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Testing Freshwater

Generation Water Tech Challenge

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Shoreline Cleanup Participants

Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup

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