A rallying call for Canada's Freshwater

This past weekend several of us from WWF-Canada’s freshwater team were lucky enough to join the Living Waters Rally 2014 in Ottawa.
From across the country, 110 delegates of Living Waters Rally 2014—representing recreational, indigenous, cottage association, faith, philanthropic, environmental, business, academic, and arts and culture groups —came together to discuss the future of Canada’s freshwater.

Back River rapids, Northwest Territories, Canada
Rapids on the Back River below Bulliard Lake, Northwest Territories, Canada. © Jeremy HARRISON / WWF-Canada

These organizations recognized the need for a national water health standard to drive change in the rivers, lakes and wetlands they champion. There are hundreds of organizations working on the ground on water that are critical to securing Canada’s water wealth.  This information is critical to complement the scale of assessments WWF-Canada does.
Without an information baseline, we have no way to understand the impacts and trade-offs of resource development decisions. Without a national standard of “good water health” we have no way to measure the progress of local restoration projects. And without consistent metrics, we have no way to judge whether all of the water legal reforms currently happening across this country will be effective.
Canoeing at sunset on Willow Island Lake, Temagami area, Ontario, Canada
A man canoeing in the sunset at Willow Island Lake in the Temagami, area, Ontario, Canada. © Greg STOTT / WWF-Canada

The first step to securing Canada’s water legacy is to better understand the current condition of our waters.  To address the health of Canada’s water today WWF-Canada has created a tool that can be applied at a national scale to watersheds across Canada.  The Freshwater Health Assessments provides a consistent way to measure progress and impact of policy, advocacy, and restoration projects.  And organizations know, without it, there will always be a limit to the effectiveness of local efforts because water—by its very nature—flows downstream, across and beyond political borders.
Traditionally, Canadians have relied on government agencies for monitoring and some reporting but have never been given a clear national picture of how our water is faring.  Events like this past weekend, that bring a collective movement together, demonstrates a changing tide and importance of water health to Canadians.  Because the only thing that Canadians deserve more than knowing if their water is healthy is that their water is healthy.