World Water Day Film Launch: People Power for Healthy Rivers

Living Lakes Canada worked with Imagine Creative to produce this 4-minute video — “People Power for Healthy Rivers: DNA Technology Meets Citizen Science in STREAM” — which features how the CABIN (Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network) protocol is being used in our STREAM project.

We are pleased to launch this compelling short film on World Water Day 2020 (March 22). 

STREAM, short for Sequencing the Rivers for Environmental Assessment and Monitoring, is the national water monitoring pilot working to collect a total of 1,500 environmental DNA samples from 15 watersheds across Canada over three years through community-based water monitoring. 

STREAM is a partnership between Living Lakes Canada, World Wildlife FundCanada, the University of Guelph and Environment and Climate Change Canada.

DFO funds Aquatic Species at Risk Project in the Columbia Basin



Columbia Basin, March 22, 2020 – Aquatic species and their habitats are at risk in the Columbia Basin and a new Living Lakes Canada project is helping to protect them. 

Living Lakes Canada recently received a $1.09 million grant from the Fisheries and Oceans Canada Canada Nature Fund for Aquatic Species at Risk program to complete a “Foreshore Inventory and Mapping (FIM) for Aquatic Species at Risk Project” in the Columbia Basin. 

The four-year project was launched in late 2019. The first phase of the project included a series of workshops with participation from First Nations; municipal, regional, provincial and federal governments; environmental consultants; and NGO representatives (see photo below). The workshops were aimed at reviewing and revising the existing FIM methodology in order to improve its application for Columbia Basin lakes.

Since 2006, FIM has been completed on 13 lakes across the Columbia Basin, including:

      • Lake Windermere
      • Columbia Lake
      • Wasa Lake
      • Moyie Lake
      • Monroe Lake
      • Jimsmith Lake
      • Tie Lake
      • Rosen Lake
      • St Mary Lake
      • Koocanusa Reservoir
      • Kootenay Lake
      • Slocan Lake
      • Brilliant Headpond

The Living Lakes Canada project will map or re-map six to eight priority lakes in the Columbia Basin over four years. The first two lakes will be selected and announced this spring. 

“The project is very timely given that some lake reports are now more than 10 years old. We are excited to be working with DFO and our other partners to strengthen shoreline habitat conservation across the Columbia Basin,” said Living Lakes Canada Project Manager Heather Leschied.

FIM takes an inventory and maps shoreline habitats for fish and wildlife, assesses habitat value, and establishes Foreshore Management Guidelines. The aim of these guidelines is to conserve sensitive habitats, improve ecosystem resiliency in the face of climate change, and protect species of conservation concern. They also provide a benchmark by which to compare habitat changes over time. 

The project will benefit a number of Species at Risk in the Columbia Basin, including the Westslope Cutthroat Trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii lewisi), White Sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus), Shorthead Sculpin (Cottus confusus) and Columbia Sculpin (Cottus hubbsi), and the Umatilla Dace (Rhinichthys umatilla) among others.

The Canada Nature Fund for Aquatic Species at Risk (CNFASAR) is delivered by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and is part of Canada’s Nature Initiative, which was launched in May 2018. The CNFASAR will provide $55 million over 5 years to support projects that help to recover aquatic species at risk. The objective of the CNFASAR is to slow (and hopefully reverse) the decline of aquatic species at risk. It aims to fast-track species recovery by injecting targeted funding for activities and projects that address key threats in priority locations.

To learn more about Living Lakes Canada’s FIM work, visit:

To learn more about CNFASAR, visit:

“The collaborative approach to the workshop was well-planned, the invitees well-chosen, and the agenda well-thought out and efficiently managed for time. The chosen space provided a comfortable and casual atmosphere, which made attendees like myself, who didn’t already know most of the other participants, feel comfortable speaking up when we had something of value to add to the discussion. The event was informative for me as a practitioner and helped me understand the variety of factors involved in shoreline management. I’d say it was the most productive workshop I’ve attended, which is especially impressive considering the complexity of the material and the short timeframe.  All the attendees had extensive experience with either writing and/or using the material prior to the workshop and, because we all came from varied backgrounds and our approaches for using the material varied based on our sector’s unique needs, knowledge base, jurisdiction and/or regulatory framework, the discussion was well-rounded and the results highly useful (I hope)!”

~Tracy Van de Wiel, Planning Technician, Regional District of East Kootenay

Columbia Basin groundwater level data captured in new report

Columbia Basin, March 22, 2020 – There is relatively little known about the aquifers in the Columbia Basin, but the Living Lakes Canada Columbia Basin Groundwater Monitoring Program is starting to fill the knowledge gaps.

The program has recently published its first summary of the groundwater level data collected to date. The technical report provides information on the wells being monitored, data collection methods, and preliminary data interpretation to help understand what is being monitored at each site.


Columbia Basin Groundwater Monitoring Program Manager Carol Luttmer

“The program is innovative and exciting,” says Groundwater Program Manager Carol Luttmer. “The partnerships with existing well owners are key to its success and we are keen to expand, pending sufficient funding and finding suitable wells, so that we can collect data across the range of climatic, geological, topographical, hydrological, land cover, and water use conditions that exist in the Basin.“

The Province of BC has mapped 184 aquifers in the Upper Columbia Basin, where is there is a history of groundwater use. They are monitoring groundwater levels in six (6) of these aquifers as part of the Provincial Groundwater Observation Well Network (PGOWN). To date, the Living Lakes Canada Groundwater Monitoring Program has collected data from an additional 14 wells in 13 different aquifers.

Wells are expensive to drill, therefore the program partners with well owners to monitor groundwater levels in existing wells that are not used to extract water. The groundwater level data are shared on the BC Real-time Water Data Website where they can be accessed publicly.

“There is so much value in collecting data now,” explains Antonio Barosso (P.Eng.), a hydrogeologist with GW Solutions who provides technical support to the Living Lakes Canada Groundwater Program. “We can’t go back in time to collect data, and it’s the long-term data sets that will support us managing aquifers effectively today.”

How much water is stored underground, how it flows, and the resulting groundwater levels are dependent on many factors, including climate, geology, topography, land cover, interactions with surface waters, and how much water humans are withdrawing.  Site specific information such as groundwater levels provides information that can be used to help manage and protect aquifers to maintain water supplies for human and ecological needs. 

The information gathered in the Living Lakes Canada Groundwater Program data summary report shows that the Volunteer Observation Wells are monitoring a variety of types of groundwater systems in the Upper Columbia Basin including those dominated by surface water-groundwater interactions, mountain block recharge, and precipitation infiltration recharge. 

“Understanding the site-specific recharge, storage, and discharge mechanisms for individual aquifers is key to managing water resources,” says Luttmer. “For example, if we understand recharge mechanisms, we can predict which aquifers will be most affected by climate change and we can protect the areas where infiltration is occurring for those aquifers.”

The Groundwater Program data summary report can be downloaded HERE and is also available on the Ecological Reports Catalogue (CLICK HERE). 

If you would like more information on the program, visit the Groundwater Program webpage or contact

Groundwater Program Manager Carol Luttmer checks a well at the Nature Trust of British Columbia’s Dutch Creek Hoodoos Conservation Area.






Flathead River Biomonitoring Program Summary Report now available

The Flathead River is a trans-boundary tributary of the Columbia River, flowing from the Canadian Rocky Mountains south into Montana. This system is significant because it includes the headwaters of three extensive continental river systems (Columbia, Missouri/Mississippi, and Saskatchewan). The Flathead River watershed is known for supporting habitat connectivity, extremely high terrestrial biodiversity, and diverse aquatic life. 

“The Flathead is unique as an unsettled river valley that supports robust populations of Westslope cutthroat trout, bull trout and iconic wildlife species, making it an important watershed for fish and wildlife connectivity, and for ensuring overall resilience to climate change in the Canadian Southern Rockies,” said Flathead Lake Biological Station Senior Scientist Erin Sexton with the University of Montana.

Because of its remote location and lack of other human developments, the Canadian Flathead watershed offers a unique opportunity to observe the isolated effects of timber harvest practices on aquatic health. 

This observation was the intent of the Flathead River Biomonitoring Program, a five-year project that took place between 2013 and 2017. The project examined the aquatic health of five different sub-basins — one of which had no previous logging activity — to observe any effects over the five-year period. The recently published Flathead River Biomonitoring Program Summary Report outlines the results from these efforts.

Using the Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network (CABIN) protocol, Living Lakes Canada staff collected benthic macroinvertebrate samples (the community of organisms that live in the substrates along the bottom of a river or stream) and water quality data in five tributaries in the Canadian Flathead River watershed between 2013 and 2017. This study was completed in an effort to support landscape conservation and improve resource management in the watershed.

“It is great to see this effort by Living Lakes Canada to provide a complete CABIN dataset for a watershed as important as the Canadian Flathead,” said Sexton. “The information collected provides a solid baseline for the sites monitored, that will be useful and important as climate change, further forestry land use, recreation and land use planning continue.” 

Click here for the report.



Columbia Basin water data hub preparing for April launch

Monitoring Collaborative update

The Columbia Basin Water Monitoring Collaborative database is in the final stages of development and testing before its launch as the collective hub of Columbia Basin-relevant water data collected by the water monitoring groups in the Basin. This information will help to provide better understanding of the 10 watershed subregions in the Columbia Basin  and to support improved watershed management by decision makers .

The anticipated launch date is for April 30, 2020. Keep an eye on our website and social media for the most current updates.

Fresh Water Data Commons pilot project

As part of the Monitoring Collaborative, we are working on the Fresh Water Data Commons pilot project within our Supercluster Innovation Fund partnership within our Supercluster Innovation Fund partnership. The goal of this project is to collect water data in a cost-effective, real-time, and scalable manner then use that data to understand the water balance in ecosystems and stay abreast of water availability issues in different regions as they occur.

The Fresh Water Data Commons pilot project will ground truth a sub-basin water balance model by placing a system of collection devices in a rural area of the Columbia Basin to test collecting, storing and analyzing data in real-time. By replacing static data collection with real-time data collection and analytics, the accuracy of modelling can be determined to inform machine learning. This real-time data will provide the opportunity to make water management decisions using the most current information available across all sectors including government, First Nations, industry, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and community-based monitoring groups.

In addition to contributing data to the Columbia Basin’s water data hub, the Fresh Water Data Commons is assisting the Monitoring Collaborative with some of the development of its open source data centre. 

Targeted eDNA

Living Lakes team members will also be involved in an Environmental DNA (eDNA) research component of the project that will assist with further validation of this emerging technology. 

For this eDNA research component, Living Lakes Canada will be working closely with local partner organizations and the University of Victoria eDNA Helbing Lab.

Animals slough off DNA into their immediate environment through skin, mucus, feces, etc. This eDNA can be captured by properly filtering a sample of water and analyzing it in a lab. Living Lakes Canada staff will be collecting water samples in strategic locations at the study sites to determine the spatial extent of a select group of target species. These samples will be filtered and sent to the University of Victoria, where they will be analyzed in the Helbing Lab to determine presence or absence of the predetermined target species.

The eDNA data will be shared with the partner organization in order to offer more information on the effectiveness of local restoration or monitoring projects while improving eDNA research techniques.   

To learn more, contact Program Manager Raegan Mallison at

Collecting valuable data for high elevation monitoring program

On March 1 and 2, Living Lakes Canada team members Claire Pollock-Hall and Kyle Prince along with volunteer Kaylenna Olynyk were recruited to complete the monthly snow survey at one of the North Kootenay Lake Water Monitoring Project (NKLWMP)’s snow survey courses on the northeast end of Kootenay Lake, BC. This work was conducted to assist with the NKLWMP Snow and Climate Monitoring Program, which is under the umbrella of Living Lakes Canada. The NKLWMP snow courses are situated at an elevation that is higher than all the other provincial snow courses within the area, highlighting their value in providing data otherwise outside the range of existing monitoring sites.

Background: The context for this monitoring program are two Columbia Basin Trust reports authored by hydrologist Dr. Martin Carver — Water Monitoring and Climate Change in the Upper Columbia Basin: Summary of Current Status and Opportunities, and Guidance Information for Planning Monitoring Programs  — which have identified knowledge gaps in the scientific understanding of where water resources and aquatic ecosystems in the Columbia Basin are changing as a consequence of land use and climate change. High elevation data, peak glacial melt, and snow trends were among the high priority water-related knowledge gaps identified, which the NKLWMP Snow and Climate Monitoring Program seeks to address. 

This monitoring trip to the Kootenay Joe snow survey course began with an early morning scenic drive along the water with an epic mountain backdrop as the group made their way to the trailhead at the northeast end of Kootenay Lake. The three snow surveyors had their work cut out for them, having to self-propel up the mountainside close to 1300 m on an old logging road using ski-touring gear to access the backcountry survey area and their accommodation for the night.

The first day was very pleasant and the group was treated to patches of sun, blue skies and mountain peak views as they gained elevation. A drastic difference in the snowpack and snow condition was observed throughout the day, changing from exposed ground cover and a spring feel at the parking area level to a winter wonderland experience at their destination.

Once the group reached the cabin where they would be spending the night, they dropped some weight from their packs, gathered the monitoring equipment, and clipped back into their skis to initiate the snow survey. Working together, the team of three were able to collect the snow data efficiently. The survey involved orienteering to each sample site, measuring snow height, removing a core snow sample, and weighing it to determine water equivalency. This was repeated ten times to complete the snow survey course. 

After a cozy night at the cabin, the group headed back down to civilization the next day. Conditions were much different, with cloudy skies, falling snow and blowing winds. The hard work from the day before paid off as the group travelled swiftly down the old logging road back to the parking area, once again experiencing the stark contrast in weather and snow conditions. 

Living Lakes Canada has the mandate to mainstream water monitoring in the Canadian Columbia Basin and beyond, and encourages any interested individuals or groups to contact us to find out more. 

Living Lakes Canada joins rest of STREAM team at biomonitoring lab

From February 10 to 11, Living Lakes Canada joined representatives from Environment and Climate Change Canada, the University of Guelph and the World Wildlife Fund-Canada in Guelph, Ontario for the annual STREAM team face-to-face gathering. 

The STREAM project, led by the aforementioned organizations, is a national community-based water monitoring project which involves the collection of benthic macroinvertebrates from rivers across Canada. The benthic macroinvertebrates are collected using the Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network (CABIN) protocol for standardized data collection then analyzed by the new technology DNA metabarcoding by the University of Guelph. This biodiversity data will help build a new baseline reference library of the benthic communities that currently exist in rivers across Canada, making it possible to monitor the long-term impacts of climate change and water pollution.  

The STREAM team met to review the first year of the three-year project (2019 was Year 1). Successes and lessons learned from the first year were recapped. 

Successes included exceeding the target milestone of the number of samples collected. Over 700 samples were collected by participating groups across Canada when the goal was 500. Another milestone exceeded was the number of participants who attended the two-day CABIN field certification courses: over 75 people were certified in the national water monitoring protocol standard, when the goal was 40 participants over the three years.

Lessons learned included identifying the need to provide participating groups with more clarification of how the new technology of DNA metabarcoding fits into the already existing CABIN methods and data. 

“We’re really excited to implement what we’ve learned from our on-the-ground experience working with the community groups last year as part of the STREAM project. We will continue to support groups setting up their community-based water monitoring programs across the country, removing as many barriers as possible, and continuing to support Year 1 participants in the sustainability of their programs,” said Living Lakes Canada STREAM Program Manager Raegan Mallinson. 

During the meeting, the STREAM team received a tour of the Hajibabaei Lab in the Centre for Biodiversity Genomics at the University of Guelph. This is the lab where the bulk benthic samples collected as part of the STREAM project are sent. The lab performs the DNA metabarcoding analysis, which provides the biodiversity data that is the end goal of the STREAM project: the presence/absence taxa list of the benthic macroinvertebrates in the sample.  

In 2020, participating groups will continue to receive free benthic macroinvertebrate sample analysis through DNA metabarcoding by the University of Guelph. The priority watersheds have been selected and include:

  • the Yukon watershed
  • the Fraser Basin, in the Nechako sub-watershed in B.C.
  • the Winnipeg watershed in Ontario
  • the Great Lakes (Northwestern Lake Superior) in Ontario
  • the Ottawa watershed in Ontario

A two-day modified CABIN field certification will be offered in priority watersheds for participating groups and individuals, along with monitoring support and sample shipment. 

Although training efforts are focused on the priority watersheds, participation and benthic sample submission (collected through CABIN) from any group or program in any watershed across Canada is encouraged.

“Free DNA metabarcoding sample analysis by the University of Guelph is available to any interested participants that are using the CABIN protocol, even if they are not located in the priority watersheds identified by the STREAM project. This provides a great opportunity for groups starting a new biomonitoring program,” says Mallinson. 

To help build Canada’s new baseline and support the validation of cutting-edge technology for stream health assessments, join the STREAM project. 

For more information, email STREAM Program Manager Raegan Mallinson at

Columbia Basin snow surveys helping fill water data gaps

On January 28 and 29, members of the Living Lakes Canada (LLC) team gathered in Nelson, BC, where our head office is located, for a two-day strategic planning meeting. The goal of this meeting was to collectively work on our organization’s direction for the next three years, and ensure all projects align with LLC’s vision and values. 

The gathering also presented the opportunity for several members to get involved in one of our on-the-ground partner projects in the Canadian Columbia Basin.   

The North Kootenay Lake Water Monitoring Project (NKLWMP) is working to improve understanding and prediction of how small- and medium-sized watersheds in the B.C.’s West Kootenay are going to behave in a changing climate, especially in conditions of extreme high and low precipitation.

Under the umbrella of NKLWMP’s snow monitoring program, LLC members joined NKLWMP in conducting snow surveys during a backcountry trip to Lost Ledge Cabin following the strategic planning meeting. NKLWMP has been conducting snow surveys for the past four years and there are 10 survey sites within close proximity to Lost Ledge Cabin.

The surveys involved removing core snow samples, measuring the height of snow in the tube and weight, and therefore determining the volume of water. LLC team members developed skills in conducting monitoring while also enjoying a couple of backcountry skiing adventures! 

LLC and NKLWMP would like to thank members of the Lost Ledge Cabin who provided them with cabin access, great stories and a beautiful place to stay while positively contributing to the conservation of one of our most valuable resources. 


A 2017 Columbia Basin Trust report identified significant water data gaps in the Canadian Columbia Basin, including that from snow and glaciers, small watersheds, high-elevation streams, wetlands, and groundwater. Information gathered through snow surveys such as these provide increased data on water availability within the Basin. This information can then be used to assist in developing management plans and making informed decisions surrounding water use and flood mitigation measures downstream. Filling these gaps will help communities and water resource decision-makers better understand and adapt to changes in the quality and quantity of regional water supplies.

Groundwater management is crucial in Upper Columbia Basin

Columbia Basin, February 10, 2020 — Columbia Basin businesses and landowners who use groundwater for non-domestic purposes are reminded they are legally required to apply for a water licence.

This change came into effect in 2016 with the new Water Sustainability Act. Four years later, just 15% of B.C. users have complied, according to a recent article published by the Partnership for Water Sustainability. Licensing is needed to protect many of the regions in B.C. that have reached a point where water supply is reaching critically low levels, and prevent the same water stress from happening elsewhere in the province, state the authors. Domestic groundwater users are exempt from licensing but are encouraged to register their well so it can be added to the provincial database.

“Groundwater helps maintain water levels and water quality in wetlands, streams, rivers and lakes,” says Living Lakes Canada Executive Director Kat Hartwig. “It’s important to manage this freshwater resource for the health of communities and ecosystems, especially in a changing climate.”

Living Lakes Canada is managing the Columbia Basin Groundwater Monitoring Program, which is working with citizens, local governments and other stakeholders throughout the Basin to collect groundwater data that otherwise would not be collected. This information can then be used by citizens to learn about groundwater and in water management decisions, climate adaptation planning, and conservation planning to ensure sustainable water supplies for human use and to maintain healthy ecosystems.

The program is looking to expand the number of wells it is monitoring and invites interested well owners (domestic and non-domestic) to contact Program Manager Carol Luttmer at Suitable wells for monitoring are typically not actively used to withdraw water.

To better understand the new requirements for groundwater users, to apply for a licence or to register your well, visit the BC Government website at

To learn more about Living Lakes Canada’s Groundwater Monitoring Program in the Columbia Basin, visit


Highlighting the Columbia Wetlands on World Wetlands Day 2020

Our organization was founded in the Columbia Valley, headwaters of the transboundary Columbia River and home to one of North America’s longest, intact wetlands system: the Columbia Wetlands.  We want to honour and highlight this wetland the Columbia wetlands for World Wetlands Day 2020 and its theme “Wetlands and Biodiversity”.

The Columbia Wetlands are RAMSAR-designated and internationally recognized for their diversity, variety of wildlife and as important resting and breeding habitat for migratory birds, all of which rely on the ecosystems services that wetlands provide.

In a changing climate, understanding the role groundwater plays in keeping wetlands climate resilient can inform water management decisions in a way that will protect and preserve nature, not only to conserve biodiversity, but the important ecologic  services wetlands provide to society as well (holding floodwaters, recharging groundwater supplies, removing pollution, and sequestering carbon).

When we protect wetlands, we all win.  

Living Lakes Canada is part of the Columbia Wetlands Stewardship Partners (CWSP), a group that was created to develop effective stewardship and management practices for the Columbia Wetlands and the Upper Columbia River. 

CWSP just released a five-year strategic plan for the Columbia Wetlands that is now available for download.  

Click the image to download the report.

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