New report sheds light on Watershed Governance in the Columbia Basin

If you’re involved in watershed stewardship and management at any level in the Columbia Basin—as a community volunteer, a non-profit volunteer, a First Nation representative, or local government official—a new report is available highlighting current watershed governance issues, opportunities and successes in the Basin.

Called Community Engagement in Watershed Governance: Case Studies and Insights From the Upper Columbia River Basin, the report highlights how community-based organizations in the Basin are supporting watershed health. The report also offers information about water governance and B.C.’s Water Sustainability Act.

Produced by Living Lakes Canada, Columbia Basin Trust and the University of Victoria’s POLIS Water Sustainability Project, the report explores:

  • The meaning of watershed governance
  • Local watershed protection and B.C.’s new Water Sustainability Act
  • How four local watershed groups have contributed to water governance
  • Insights from the experiences of others in the Basin

The report examines these four watershed groups:

  • Kootenay Lake Partnership
  • Lake Windermere Ambassadors
  • East Kootenay Integrated Lake Management Partnership
  • Elk River Alliance

Download the report here.

If you have questions about this report, contact Wendy Horan, Manager, Environment, Columbia Basin Trust, at

Underground water matters: monitoring groundwater in the Columbia Basin is more important than ever

It was a packed room for the groundwater monitoring workshop delivered by Living Lakes Canada in Invermere on May 11 as part of the Wings Over the Rockies Festival. Photo by Nicole Trigg/Living Lakes Canada

The volume of water stored underground in the Columbia Basin is largely unknown, yet groundwater provides drinking water to many in the region, is used by agriculture and industry, and contributes to stream and river flows, keeping natural systems working optimally including providing sufficient flows to support fish.

Groundwater is expected to become an even more vital water resource with predicted climatic changes. A 2017 report on water monitoring and climate change in the Columbia Basin suggests that with climate change impacts — such as an increase in landslides — surface water quality may decline and more communities may shift to groundwater as a water supply source. Groundwater that seeps underground into streams and rivers may also become more necessary for maintaining enough water in streams and rivers for them to function properly.

“Groundwater is too important to solely rely on the government stewardship of it,” said Canadian geophysicist/engineer and Living Lakes Canada advisor Paul Bauman. “We must all do what we can to take on the responsibility and ownership of looking after this precious resource.”

Living Lakes Canada Groundwater Monitoring Program Manager Carol Luttmer and Canadian geophysicist/engineer Paul Bauman (also a Living Lakes Canada advisor) were the presenters at the groundwater monitoring workshop delivered by Living Lakes Canada in Invermere on May 11 as part of the Wings Over the Rockies Festival. Photo by Nicole Trigg/Living Lakes Canada

Paul Bauman recently spoke at a groundwater workshop in Invermere as part of the Wings Over the Rockies Festival about his experiences working on grassroots groundwater initiatives in regions of the world where it is difficult to access clean drinking water. His presentation focused mainly on his recent travels to Uganda where he helped refugees identify water sources and build wells as they returned to their communities after 20 years of civil war.

In the Upper Columbia Basin, Living Lakes Canada (LLC) is monitoring groundwater in priority aquifers — the geological features underground that store and release water — through its Groundwater Monitoring Program. This is being done by locating already-existing wells and installing water level loggers to measure groundwater levels in the wells. Aquifer selection is based on potential for vulnerability to contamination, potential for user conflict, and high number of users.

Currently, of the 154 aquifers in the Upper Columbia Basin that have been mapped by the Province, 10 are being monitored in the LLC Groundwater Monitoring Program. LLC is looking for additional wells to monitor in the Wardner-Jaffrey, West Arm of Kootenay Lake and Crescent Valley areas and is interested in hearing from communities that would like to monitor aquifers in their region.

Water level data acquired through program is analyzed by a team of experts and shared with stakeholders to support informed decision making for groundwater use, stewardship, and climate adaptation planning. One example demonstrating how the data can be used is the State of Climate Adaptation report for the Regional District of East Kootenay Area F in 2017, which plans to use groundwater as an indicator of water supply for determining climate change resiliency.

“We’re gauging water quantity and comparing aquifer levels to precipitation,” said LLC Groundwater Monitoring Program Manager Carol Luttmer. “But groundwater-surface water interactions, water quality, and aquifer vulnerability to climate change are three areas that we believe will require further exploration.”

Members of the public are also encouraged to contact LLC about their own groundwater source and any related concerns.

For more information and to discuss groundwater monitoring in your community, contact Carol directly at

The multi-phased pilot program was started thanks to funding from the Columbia Basin Trust and now is moving forward beyond the successful pilot phase into a full project. Living Lakes Canada facilitates a community-driven approach for protecting water resources and recognizes the importance of data to support effective management of our resources.

What a Decade of Water Action means for Living Lakes Canada

By Living Lakes Canada Stewardship Coordinator Raegan Mallinson

In 2016, the United Nations and World Bank Group convened a High Level Panel on Water (HLPW) to provide leadership in tackling one of the world’s most pressing challenges – an approaching global water crisis.

In advance of World Water Day 2018 on March, the United Nations and HLPW launched the Water Action Decade 2018–2028, calling for a fundamental shift in global water management.

The UN Decade of Water Action has 3 main Foundations for Action:

  • UNDERSTAND WATER… Commit to making evidence-based decisions about water, and cooperate to strengthen water data, such as through the HLPW World Water Data Initiative.
  • VALUE WATER… Use the HLPW Principles on Valuing Water to sustainably, efficiently, and inclusively allocate and manage water resources and deliver and price water services accordingly
  • MANAGE WATER… Implement integrated approaches to water management at local, national, and transboundary levels, strengthen water governance, and ensure gender equality and social inclusion.

Why does this matter? 40% of the world’s people are affected by water scarcity.

What does this mean for Canada? Canada is home to 20 per cent of the world’s freshwater supply.

What does this mean for Living Lakes Canada? Living Lakes Canada engages Canadians to build a water stewardship and conservation ethic through hands-on water monitoring training and watershed health education, and by involving communities, academics, industry, governments and First Nations in building climate resiliency within our communities through linking applied science for water and land-use management and decision-making.

Our projects and activities contribute to the conservation of Canada’s water through increased knowledge, awareness, engagement and actions to protect Canadian watersheds.

Taking responsibility for the watersheds on which we depend will be essential for implementing the UN Decade for Water Action. Through education and training in water monitoring protocols, communities across Canada will better understand the state of their watersheds, potential threats such as pollution and destruction, and be able to collaborate, share ideas for the conservation and remediation of their watersheds, and raise the importance of the water dialogue to the level of urgency it now requires now.

With 40% of the world’s people affected by water scarcity and with Canada being home to 20% of the world’s freshwater supply, we as Canadians are faced with an important task in water management and conservation as our models are being recognized around the world.

Water Canada spoke to Sulton Rahimzoda, First Deputy Minister of Energy and Water Resources of the Republic of Tajikistan about the Decade:

“We need as many countries as possible to join efforts and advance the water agenda at all levels. Canada is definitely a leader on water resources. The International Joint Commission on shared waters with the United States is one of the first and finest examples of water cooperation, inspiring many countries around the world. The joint management of transboundary waters, such as in the Colombia Basin is a model for many basins.”

Why Canada Should Engage in the New Water Decade: Republic of Tajikistan

Also in advance of World Water Day 2018, the HLPW issued a report summarizing its findings and recommendations.

Making Every Drop Count: An Agenda for Water Action ( outlines 3 Calls to Action:

  • TURN OFF denial of global water crisis, turn off waste and pollution, and destruction of watersheds, turn off of fetching water and turn to a path of education
  • TURN ON solutions, ideas, innovations, investments in infrastructure, sanitation, ecosystem management and resilience; political will of how we understand, value and manage water
  • TURN UP the urgency and volume on water dialogue; intensity to keep water promises; the heat on those who misuse water; the funding and the value we place on water

UN High Level Panel on water asks that people:

  • Value water
  • Take action quickly, decisively and collectively
  • Address our global water crisis
  • Meet our goals

See below for the High Level Panel on Water Video, Water’s Promise: Making Every Drop Count:

See below for Water Canada’s article United Nations Calls for Fundamental Shift in Global Water Management:

United Nations Calls for Fundamental Shift in Global Water Management

(Excerpt) The panel’s report sets out a three-pillared agenda to define essential activities to meet SDGs, and goal 6 in particular:

  • Foundations for action. This includes understanding water from an evidence-based decision framework, support by sound data; valuing water with a mind to sustainability, efficiency, and inclusivity to manage and deliver water resources appropriately; and managing water equitably and inclusively at all levels of governance.
  • An integrated agenda. This includes universal access to water and sanitation; resilient societies and economies to reduce disaster risk; increased water infrastructure investment; nurturing environmental water by preventing pollution and degradation; and developing sustainable cities.
  • Catalyzing change, building partnerships, and international cooperation. This includes promoting innovation; strengthening partnerships; and increasing global water cooperation.



Community-based Water Monitoring Survey Highlights

Community-based Water Monitoring (CBWM) is gaining momentum across Canada and is a powerful means of achieving shared water management and sustainability objectives. As interest in CBWM grows, investments to organize and implement community-driven initiatives are being made across Canada. To realize the full potential of this momentum, there is a need for strategic thinking and coordination at the national level.

We sent an online survey to over 500 individuals from community and non-governmental organizations, government, Indigenous organizations, and research institutions to set priorities for a multi-sector, national-scale discussion on CBWM.

146 participants shared valuable insights on the priorities that need to be addressed to advance CBWM in Canada, as well as guidance on strategies to facilitate change at the federal level. The survey results demonstrated that there are tangible opportunities to increase federal-level supports for CBWM and that a considerable appetite exists for a collaborative, national discussion on the topic.


This summary provides the highlights of what we learned and synthesizes recommendations to help direct next steps for a national gathering planned for the fall of 2018.

This is a collaborative initiative being led by The Gordon Foundation, Living Lakes Canada, and WWF-Canada.


See the results of the survey here. CBWM Survey Highlights Feb 2018

Living Lakes Canada celebrates World Water Day March 22

Columbia Wetlands in the Columbia Valley, East Kootenay B.C. Photo by Pat Morrow

Columbia Basin, March, 2018 – Today, on March 22, World Water Day turns 25 and Living Lakes Canada is joining countless organizations, governments and people around the world in focusing attention on the importance of water.

“For us, it’s all about watershed stewardship,” said Heather Leschied, Program Manager for Living Lakes Canada. “We encourage our communities through building knowledge and awareness, to take a pro-active approach and protect the healthy, intact watersheds we have in the Columbia Basin.”

In Canada, a week-long celebration of water from coast to coast is held annually in the third week of March to coincide with World Water Day. Canada Water Week, as it’s known, was founded by Living Lakes Canada in partnership with the Canadian Freshwater Alliance, The Gordon Foundation and the World Wildlife Fund Canada. Across the country groups and individuals are encouraged to get involved by organizing or participating in fun and educational water-related events.

Nurturing a water stewardship ethic is one of the overarching goals of Living Lakes Canada, which helps communities learn to value and protect their watersheds through shoreline conservation, groundwater monitoring and stewardship, CABIN monitoring and training (measuring freshwater ecosystem health with federally standardized methods), and cross-sector engagement.

As world-wide water issues continue to grow, the importance of watershed protection can’t be overstated.

Dr. Hans Schreier, a professor emeritus with the Faculty of Land and Food Systems at UBC and a Living Lakes Canada advisor, is particularly alarmed by the speed at which high altitude lakes are changing with climate change, and the public’s lack of awareness around how the high mountains are warming up much faster than the low lands.

With increased warming comes less run off in rivers, which leads to lower lake water levels, levels that are further depleted by a system of water extraction for agricultural, commercial and industrial uses.

“The question is how much water should be allocated for environmental services?” Schreier asks. “How do you put an economic value on what the river does by nature, maintaining fish and water quality?”

In drought-beleaguered California, government has actually initiated buying back water licenses in order to maintain environmental services.

“So I suspect this is going to happen more and more,” he said. “There’s clear evidence now that the snow melt is occurring earlier in the spring, which means late in the summer you’re going to have less water running and that’s the critical time for environmental services.”

Living Lakes Canada’s focus on watershed protection fits perfectly with the 2018 theme of World Water Day: “Nature for Water – exploring nature-based solutions to the water challenges we face in the 21st century”.

“Conservation of our watersheds and learning to protect them for the services they already provide is key,” said Leschied, citing the Columbia Wetlands as an example. “These wetlands are one of the longest intact wetland systems in North America, and the services they provide in terms of flood control, carbon sequestration, pollution filtration, and habitat for fish and wildlife is astounding. The ecosystem services they provide are priceless.”

For more information on World Water Day, visit



Water Management as a Tool for Reconciliation

David Suzuki was the keynote speaker at the recent Assembly of First Nations Symposium in Vancouver that focused on the theme of “Reconciliation through Sustainable Water Management”.

The Assembly of First Nations held the National Water Symposium and Trade Show in Vancouver February 6-8, 2018, where First Nations delegates, industry, government, academia and community groups gathered from across the country.  The Symposium’s focus was on “Reconciliation Through Sustainable Water Management”. The Symposium was the beginning of a dialogue to discuss First Nations across Canada, the repeal of the Safe Water Drinking Act and to gather input of what a re-envisioned engagement process for review of the current act would look like.

After a welcome to the traditional territory by the Musqueam, Squamish and Tseil-Waututh, Dr. David Suzuki presented his introductory keynote: Setting the Bottom Line in the Anthropocene. He spoke of sustainability, the importance of understanding our history and the respect each one of us must pay to our elders in order to understand the importance of living a balanced life. He urged attendees to rethink and to understand what real wealth is all about and the need for a new paradigm going forward.

The three-day Symposium provided examples and case studies of what the implementation of Canada’s commitment to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and international law as a framework for Reconciliation looks like in regards to co-development of the federal drinking water legislation. The need for collaboration and partnership for legislation, co-governance, First Nations right and title, water management and on-the-ground work including training methods and climate change adaptation were showcased throughout the Symposium.

Other legal tools including Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action implementation and emerging case law on water protection were provided along with the new standards that are available for Indigenous peoples describing their own laws respecting water and potential opportunities to elevate Indigenous laws, knowledge systems, practices, protocols, customs and ways of being and relating to water for collaborative partnerships and a truly equal and respected seat at the decision-making table.

Workshops and discussions throughout the three days included national and regional updates on water initiatives, innovative technology to make safe drinking water on reserves a reality, collaborative water management regimes, and policy development through water strategies examples. On-the-ground projects provided examples of partnership and collaboration to focus on Indigenous peoples’ relationship with water, safe drinking water needs, and capacity development and training. See the full agenda and speakers for the 2018 National Water Symposium here.

The National Water Symposium provided attendees with examples, tools and opportunities for building collaborative relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples and programs to be able to move towards Reconciliation through safe drinking water for all.

Raegan Mallinson is the Water Stewardship Lead for Living Lakes Canada. She can be contacted at

Columbia Basin Community-Based Groundwater Monitoring Program continues

Living Lakes Canada’ Water Stewardship Lead Raegan Mallinson, and Invermere area volunteer Buzz Harmsworth collect important groundwater data in the Columbia Basin Groundwater Monitoring Program.

Groundwater stewardship is central to community water sustainability. Groundwater helps maintain water levels in rivers and lakes, which is vital for human use and healthy ecosystems. Careful management and allocation of groundwater is becoming increasingly important as populations continue to grow, demand increases, and pressures such as climate change intensify.

A recent study on Water Monitoring and Climate Change in the Upper Columbia Basin suggests that changing climate conditions may increase the importance of groundwater for maintaining base stream flows in the Columbia Basin. Groundwater may also become an even more important potable water source as surface water sources could become seasonally restricted or of inadequate quality, or both, under changing climate conditions. The details about how and to what extent climate change will affect groundwater resources in the Basin remains unclear due a lack of mapping, monitoring, and analysis.

Living Lakes Canada began a community-based Groundwater Monitoring Program in the Columbia Basin, starting with a pilot project in 2013. Inspired by the Nova Scotia-based project, Groundswell, the Program is the first of its kind in British Columbia. The goals of the Program are to help effectively manage and protect groundwater resources in the Upper Columbia Basin by:

  • Filling important knowledge gaps about groundwater resources;
  • Providing information to decision-makers to assist with land use and water planning for sustainable and water smart communities; and
  • Engaging citizens to develop groundwater knowledge and conservation ethic.

The Program works with local citizens, landowners, community groups, First Nations, and local, regional, and the provincial government to identify and monitor priority aquifers and increase awareness about groundwater stewardship in the Columbia Basin. Currently, twelve priority aquifers have been identified by the province based on vulnerability and relevance for future water management, and water level monitoring data are being collected. These data are analyzed by Living Lakes Canada’s team and partners, and shared with stakeholders to support informed decisions regarding groundwater use and stewardship in the Basin.

In 2018, Living Lakes received a grant from the Columbia Trust to continue the Groundwater Monitoring Program. Other current and past supporters include the Real Estate Foundation of BC, Macleans, the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, McLean Foundation and Sitka Foundation. Long-term data sets are essential for understanding the state groundwater resources, and Living Lakes Canada intends to continue to implement and expand this Program.

If you would like to find out more about the Columbia Basin Groundwater Monitoring Program please contact

Heather Leschied is the Program Manager for Living Lakes Canada and Carol Luttmer is the Groundwater Program Manager for Living Lakes Canada.

PRESS RELEASE: Proceedings of Columbia Basin water protection conference now available

CRACKING THE CODE (IN 3-D): An open source data hub dialogue towards a Columbia Basin Water Monitoring Framework, Invermere, BC

Columbia Basin, February 14, 2018 – On November 29 & 30, 2017 in Invermere, a two-day conference attended by 120 water experts, residents and guests was convened by Living Lakes Canada, Columbia Basin Trust, the Columbia Basin Watershed Network and Selkirk College to explore solutions in response to a February 2017 Columbia Basin Trust report by Dr. Martin Carver (titled Water Monitoring and Climate in the Upper Columbia Basin, Summary of Current Status and Opportunities) that revealed inadequate Columbia Basin water data for managing and protecting the region’s water resources in response to climate change.

The focus of the conference — CRACKING THE CODE IN 3D — was to envision a Water Monitoring Framework that would coordinate water data collection within the Basin, an endeavour particularly relevant to the region’s higher-volume users such as communities and municipalities, hydropower operators, agricultural producers, industrial operations, ski resorts (snowmaking), as well as commercial and residential users. Additionally, conference participants discussed the development of a Columbia Basin Water Data Hub, a digital access point to store Columbia Basin open access water data in a way that supports decision-making across all levels.

Scientists, government officials, industry staff, community groups, First Nations, and technology experts presented best practices examples of water monitoring initiatives, water data hubs and community-based water monitoring from B.C., across Canada and the U.S. A shared understanding about water monitoring frameworks and water data storage needs was coupled with broad agreement that both a Framework and an open access Data Hub are required to meet the needs within the Basin, and that now is the time to move this forward.

“If we intend to address some of the climate-imposed water challenges that will impact ecosystems, communities and industries in the Basin, then we will need to all work together in a much more collaborative, innovative, timely and cost-effective manner,” said Living Lakes Canada Executive Director Kat Hartwig, “and hopefully the outcomes of this conference will be a catalyst for just that.”

Though several challenges were noted by conference participants, such as data ownership and “open” access – a broad ranging topic that includes intellectual property rights, respecting sensitive data such as traditional ecological knowledge, increased access to government and industry data (i.e. environmental assessment projects) and clarity about the meaning of ‘open’ data versus public data — there was  consensus that a collaborative open water data platform for the Basin, free of charge and available to everybody, is technologically feasible.

For the full Conference Summary, visit:

For the shorter Executive Summary, visit:

The Water Data Hub Proceedings are here


After a lot of hard work, we are so excited to bring you the proceedings from the Water Data Hub.

This document would not have been possible without the commitment from the event participants and exceptional speakers.

Please stay tuned for our executive summary, press releases, and newsletters to keep you up to date on what will follow.

Thanks again to all of you who participated in the Water Data Hub!


International Community-Based Water Monitoring Experiences: COLOMBIA

Canadian experiences in community-based water monitoring were recently shared in Columbia as part of the Building the Extractive Sector Governance in Colombia (Comunica) project, which Agriteam Canada Consulting Ltd. is implementing on behalf of Global Affairs Canada.

Raegan Mallinson, Water Stewardship Lead with Living Lakes Canada, was one of two Canadian experts who travelled to Colombia to take part in the National Forum for Watershed Keepers gathering in Pereira, Colombia from November 14th-16th, 2017, which Comunica held in partnership with the National Environmental Ministry in Colombia (MADS). She was joined by Gila Somers with the Government of the Northwest Territories.

With a focus on vulnerable populations including children, youth, women, rural and indigenous populations, the forum was an invaluable learning opportunity for community members, government officials, technical professionals and academia.

Experiences of community-based monitoring in Canada, including program development, technology, equipment and current protocols were shared with 50 regional representative watershed keepers from across Colombia.

On behalf of Living Lakes Canada, Raegan was on hand to discuss Living Lakes Canada’s involvement with Living Lakes International as well as the Colombian Living Lakes member group at Lake Tota. Other Living Lakes Canada activities that she covered included: Living Lakes Canada’s involvement with the release of the Canadian National Citizen Science Freshwater Monitoring Program in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund-Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada and University of Guelph; and the field testing of the new environmental DNA protocol to make benthic data collection more affordable, accurate and efficient.

Raegan also shared water quality monitoring program case studies from the Upper Athabasca watershed in Northern Alberta to the Flathead and Columbia valleys in British Columbia using the Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network (CABIN) protocol as successful community-based monitoring examples; and the inclusion of Traditional Knowledge through a language preservation Pilot Project launched last summer in partnership with Ktunaxa Nation using the CABIN protocol.

Following the Forum, the Canadian experts travelled to Bogota to share experiences with governance officials, including the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development and the National Agency of Environmental Licenses.

The recently released National Biomonitoring program was released in draft form and discussed for possible inclusion in future community-based monitoring programs in Colombia.

Travelling to Putumayo, the Canadian experts then met with local community monitors, local technical institutes and local governors to exchange community-based monitoring experiences and share what environmental concerns face communities in Canada. In turn, the Canadians learned of the water pollution concerns in the Putumayo region.

LLC’s Raegan Mallinson with local community-based water monitors in Putumayo, Colombia.

There was great interest in water monitoring training by all community members, who understood there were many steps needed to develop a program and the necessary capacity needed, but were keen and interested all the same.

Rounding out their trip, the Canadian experts met with the Ambassador of Canada in Colombia for a water quality monitoring demonstration with local representatives to showcase what they had learned in the workshops and the success of the program in the preliminary stages. The demonstration included a water blessing ceremony for everyone to participate in, held by local Indigenous leaders and assistants, and the event proved to be a great cultural exchange between the Canadians and Colombians present.

Community-based monitoring (CBM) helps people understand current threats to freshwater including use, pollution and climate change. Training citizens to become citizen scientists empowers local community members to become more involved and better able to understand their surroundings.

Living Lakes Canada recently released a co-authored national CBM case study, Realizing the Potential of Community Based Monitoring in Assessing the Health of Our Waters, where the universal challenges for CBM were outlined which included: ensuring credible data, connecting Indigenous Traditional Knowledge and Science, engaging and motivating citizens, data accessibility and aggregation, and informing decision-makers.

Many of these challenges, which can be turned into opportunities, are similar for Colombia, where community capacity development is underway, but further resources (long-term education and funding) need to be put towards training community monitors to steward their own watersheds, as what has been done in Canada.

Developing well-organized and planned projects to carry out these trainings is essential.

Canadian community-based monitoring experts, with Ambassador to Canada in Colombia and Comunica Project team.

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