Living Lakes Canada to attend 9th annual Canadian Water Summit

The “Blue Economy” is an emerging concept encouraging better stewardship of water resources that will be the focus of the 9th annual Canadian Water Summit to be held in Vancouver June 20-22.

As part of its exploration of the theme “Knowledge to Practice—Applying Science, Policy, and Research to the Blue Economy”, this year’s three-day Summit will feature an eye-opening session on innovation in water governance across jurisdictional and cultural boundaries that will involve the Kootenay Lake Partnership and Ktunaxa First Nation with support from Living Lakes Canada.

“The Kootenay Lake Partnership recently developed precedent setting shoreline development guidelines for Kootenay Lake,” said Heather Leschied of Living Lakes Canada, who also serves as Chair of the Kootenay Lake Partnership. She went on to note, “this multi-agency partnership took an innovative approach to a Federal protocol for mapping and classifying sensitive shoreline habitats, by integrating ecological, archaeological and Ktunaxa Nation cultural values.”

At last year’s Canadian Water Summit in Toronto, Living Lakes Canada received two Water’s Next awards. Executive director Kat Hartwig won “Water Steward of the Year” and “People – NGO category”. LLC Photo

Presenting on behalf of the Ktuanxa Nation and Kootenay Lake Partnership will be Craig Paskin, the Manager of Policy and Planning with the Ktunaxa Nation Council’s Lands and Resource Agency, who will be highlighting the efforts of the Kootenay Lake Partnership to support collaborative management approaches for a productive and healthy Kootenay Lake ecosystem. Kootenay Lake is the first project of its kind aimed at protecting and restoring important fish and wildlife habitats, while ensuring archaeological values and Ktunaxa cultural values are considered and protected during the planning and permit application process.

Featured each year as part of the Summit is the Water’s Next national awards program, which honours the achievements and ideas of individuals and companies that successfully work to advance water stewardship in Canada. Last year at the 8th annual Canadian Water Summit held in Toronto, Living Lakes Canada executive director Kat Hartwig won two of the 12 Water’s Next awards — the “Water Steward of the Year” award and the “People – NGO category” — for the work the LLC team has done over the years, including a national scan in partnership with Simon Fraser University and the University of Acadia to assess the state of community-based water monitoring across Canada and build a national dialogue around best practices in CBWM.

The Summit attracts over 300 attendees from the business, government, academic, and non-profit sectors each June, making it Canada’s largest and most diverse annual gathering of water leaders.

Follow Living Lakes Canada’s perspective of the event at #CdnWaterSummit.

To learn more about the Canadian Water Summit, visit


Living Lakes Canada applauds Teck for publicly releasing water quality reports

The following press release was issued by Teck Coal Limited on June 11. Teck operates five steelmaking coal mines in the Elk Valley of British Columbia, which employ over 4,000 people. See below for a statement by Living Lakes Canada Executive Director Kat Hartwig on the company’s decision to publicize its reports on water quality and aquatic health monitoring in the Elk River watershed. The decision re-affirms the need to have open, accessible data, as per the efforts of the Columbia Basin Water Data Hub dialogue, and industry plays a key role in this. 

Sparwood, B.C. — Teck is making available the data and results of ongoing water quality research and monitoring undertaken as part of the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan to broadly share the knowledge and information gained through this work.

The company reports in a June 11 press release it spends about $15 – $18 million a year on water quality and aquatic health studies and monitoring. Making this information more broadly available will help advance community knowledge and understanding and accelerate the pace of scientific progress and innovation in this area.

Aquatic monitoring in the Elk Valley. LLC Photo

The reports were prepared by professional scientists and represent the knowledge developed since 2014 when the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan was approved.

“Overall, the report findings confirm that the targets for selenium and other substances established in the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan are appropriate and protective of aquatic life. They also indicate that while concentrations of selenium and other substances are generally trending as expected, they are not affecting fish populations,” Teck stated.

“Effects on the percentage of some types of benthic invertebrates (certain types of mayflies) have been observed in specific downstream areas and further study work is being undertaken to determine the cause.”

The company said it is focused on continued monitoring and research, and taking the necessary steps to implement the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan and protect aquatic health across the watershed.

“Water quality is very important to communities, indigenous groups, and the more than 4,000 Teck employees in the Elk Valley,” said Marcia Smith, Senior Vice President, Sustainability and External Affairs. “A lot of work continues to go into understanding water quality and aquatic health in the Elk River watershed, and we are pleased to share our data. We believe these reports will help people see the efforts underway to better understand and manage water quality in the area.”The reports have been reviewed by the Environmental Monitoring Committee (EMC), a group that provides science-based and Ktunaxa Traditional Knowledge advice and input to Teck and the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy regarding monitoring designs and reports in the Elk Valley.

The committee includes representatives from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, Ktunaxa Nation Council, Interior Health Authority, Teck, and an independent scientist.

Kathryn Teneese, Ktunaxa Nation Council Chair: “The Ktunaxa Nation Council is very pleased to learn that Teck will be providing public access to water-related environmental monitoring reports on their website. There have been significant impacts to water in Qukin ʔamaʔkis (Elk Valley) due to coal mining, and transparency and a shared understanding of the current situation across Indigenous, provincial, federal and state governments is important. The value and significance of water to the Ktunaxa Nation and in Qukin ʔamaʔkis cannot be understated, and a shared understanding allows for meaningful discussions on next steps to address impacts to water.”

Living Lakes Canada’s Executive Director Kat Hartwig: “We were pleased to learn that Teck is sharing the water quality data that they have publicly. Transparency from all sectors, including industry, is essential for more effective collaboration amongst First Nations and non-First Nations government, academia and community groups in order to address water quality and quantity challenges which are only intensifying with climate change. This good first step will eventually align with the open source Water Data Hub currently being discussed for the Columbia Basin.”

The reports have previously been shared with regulators and the Ktunaxa Nation Council and have been used to inform the implementation of the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan. The report findings have also been summarized on an annual basis in the Environmental Monitoring Committee Public Report. Teck is committed to releasing future reports as they are developed, following review, input and advice from the EMC.

Electronic copies of the reports can be found at

Living Lakes International turns 20!

Today — June 11, 2018 — is the 20th birthday of the international Living Lakes Network. The network was launched 20 years ago today at a press conference in Los Angeles, USA with the four founding members Lake Constance (Germany, Switzerland, Austria), Mono Lake (USA), Lake St. Lucia (South Africa), and Lake Biwa (Japan).  Global Nature Fund is the coordinator of this vivid partnership that currently consists of 109 member lakes, represented by 126 organizations in 54 countries.

In 2010, Wildsight, with the participation of the Global Nature Fund and the Lake Winnipeg Foundation, established Living Lakes Canada to unite lake associations and water stewardship groups throughout Canada.

Living Lakes Canada is proud to be a part of Living Lakes International’s global network of non-government associations that share the mission to enhance the protection, restoration and rehabilitation of lakes, rivers, wetlands and watersheds throughout the world.

Learn more about Living Lakes International here.

Living Lakes Canada encourages Basin communities to attend Columbia River Treaty meetings

Lake Koocanusa is a reservoir formed by the Libby Dam that’s a part of the Columbia River Treaty. LLC Photo

Starting in the 1930s, the construction of dams on the Columbia River transformed a wild waterway into a controlled system of reservoirs managed by the largest international flood control and power generation agreement between Canada and the United States known as the Columbia River Treaty (CRT).

On May 29, 2018, negotiations began between Canada and the U.S. to renew the CRT, and a series of Community Meetings to gather public input is slated to start in the Columbia Basin on June 11. According to Living Lakes Canada Executive Director Kat Hartwig, it’s time “to look beyond just the river.”

Hartwig attended a special one-day symposium on the future of the CRT on May 28 in Victoria, B.C. as part of the CWRA 2018 National Conference (Canadian Water Resources Association).

“The negotiations are seen as opportunity to modernize the CRT, and that greater emphasis should be placed on watershed-based ecosystem function and health,” she said. “Living Lakes Canada (LLC) is interested in the monitoring and health of the tributaries and high elevation lakes that feed into the Columbia River. Climate-related increased glacial melt will impact the amount and timing of water contributing to the river, which is both relevant to the CRT dialogue, as well as the understanding of the health of the watershed as a whole.”

Out of the symposium came pressing recommendations for the CRT negotiations. Namely, to restore wild stock salmon (in support of the united transboundary First Nations and Tribes calling for the return of salmon to the Upper Columbia); to re-establish a more natural river system through ecosystem-based management that includes local community leaders, First Nations/Tribes, and other key stakeholders; to commit to a holistic view of the Columbia River as if no borders existed; to address climate change through developing more resiliency for aquatic and riparian communities; and to create a binational science panel to oversee comprehensive water quality and ecosystem based monitoring programs and scientific investigations.

“Living Lakes Canada is encouraging people to attend the CRT Community Meetings in June to get a better understanding why community-based water monitoring is important if a modernized treaty is going to take ecosystem health into account,” said Hartwig.

The Columbia River Treaty Community Meeting series is hosted by the provincial government and will take place at nine locations in the Upper Columbia Basin between June 11 and 21. The meetings will provide an update on Columbia River Treaty negotiations between Canada and the United States, and host discussions on important community interests that should be considered during the negotiations.

“A renewed treaty needs to examine environmental flows for fish which means understanding what is happening in the tributaries, and this data collection can and is being collected in collaboration with First Nations and non-First Nations community-based water monitoring groups,” Hartwig said..

For locations and dates of the community meetings, visit

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