Water, Agua, Eau, Biyah, Paani: Five words for water

Water, Agua, Eau, Biyah, Paani: Five words for water represent the many cultures living within reach of Toronto’s Humber River Watershed, one of the city’s four largest watersheds. As well as abundantly biodiverse, this urban watershed is rich in culturally diverse communities –among them, Hispanic, Pakistani, African, Indian and Afghani.
Last year, FutureWatch Educational Development Partners launched a project to connect these communities through water. WWF’s Loblaw Water Fund provided support for the Multicultural Water Initiative (MULWATERIN) which introduces newcomers to Canadian environmental issues, offering fun and educational ways to experience the Humber River.

Humber River
Multicultural Family Fishing Day in Grenadier Pond High Park on the Humber River.© Lidia Ferreira

“Our goal is to create healthy and sustainable communities in the Humber River Watershed – and to us that includes social, economic and environmental well-being,” explains Eduardo Garay, FutureWatch Executive Director. “Water is an element that connects every one and it will affect our quality of living if we don’t do something about climate change.”
When it comes to water, what common ground do diverse cultures share? “Their personal experiences relating to water and to nature. That’s what motivates them to come out and join an environmental project,” says Eduardo.
“One of our program participants was a Somali woman who had lived close to the sea in Somalia. She was a single mother with a family and when she came to Canada, she didn’t know she could actually go to the lakeshore and rent a canoe to do some paddling.  She joined one of our canoe trips and after that became a local community champion, hired by Futurewatch to help us connect with young Somali youth.”
MULWATERIN organized its first Multicultural River Days last summer on the banks of the Humber River to encourage appreciation for the natural environment.
Humber River
Educational materials are printed in diverse cultural languages of Toronto’s Humber River Watershed. © Lidia Ferreira

“It’s been amazing to see kids on a Canadian river shore for the first time in their life, catching a fish. We show them how nice it is, and what species it is, and then we tell them, now let’s put it back into the water. For the kids, their day was done successfully because of that experience, that act of giving back.”
Over the past decade, a number of initiatives have helped improve the ecological state of the Humber River – including removing small flood control reservoirs to help fishing spawning areas and stabilizing the shoreline through community efforts to plant native species. MULWATERIN has also engaged its communities in conservation efforts on the Humber – including water sampling, identification of critical fish spawning areas, and environmental education in local communities.
FutureWatch has plans to expand the project.  According to Eduardo, “Toronto is complex and diverse. One of our goals is to widen this water initiative to touch different communities across the city.”
During Canada Water Week, show your support for our rivers, lakes and streams. Join the hundreds of Canadians working across the country to protect water health. You, too, can become a Water Hero by making a donation to our Loblaw Water Fund projects.