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.

First Nations CABIN course featured in Water Canada Magazine

A CABIN training delivered by Living Lakes Canada and WWF-Canada to the Blueberry River First Nations in B.C.’s Peace Region last summer for the STREAM project is the subject of a feature story in Water Canada Magazine’s just-released Jan/Feb 2020 issue: “The Quality of our Water: Working with the Blueberry River First Nations to restore and rehabilitate the watershed.”

Click on the cover image to access the article. 

EXCERPT: “The participants were confident carrying out the monitoring,” said Living Lakes Canada STREAM program manager Raegan Mallinson. “We learned so much from being on the land with the participants. BRFN showed us how strong a community can be when they work together; they taught us about loyalty to each other and the land, and they shared their hopes and struggles. It was an impactful experience working with BRFN and we look forward to continuing the relationship into the coming years.”

Taking in teachings from Northern Canada’s water stewards

Last October, Living Lakes Canada visited the Northwest Territories (NWT) to learn and share about community-based monitoring experiences in Northern Canada and beyond. Living Lakes Canada attended and presented at both the NWT Water Stewardship Strategy in Dettah, NWT and the Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network (CABIN) Forum in Yellowknife, NWT.

The NWT has strong, Indigenous-led water monitoring programs that Living Lakes Canada has used as a model for community-based water monitoring initiatives in other regions of Canada, including the Columbia Basin.

The 10th Annual NWT Water Stewardship Strategy Implementation Workshop theme for 2019 was Northern Waters in a Changing Climate. Stories, ideas and the recent climate change research findings were shared by water partners working in various sectors from across the NWT.

Elders shared stories of the rapid change of the species present on the land, the current state of the land, and how these changes are impacting local daily life and culture. Researches spoke about climate change impacts such as slumping due to permafrost melt.

The workshop took place at the Chief Dry Geese Centre, a beautiful, circular, naturally lit building that overlooks Great Slave Lake. It was a setting that evoked the spirit of collaboration, relationship building and shared learning among attendees.

The 5th biennial CABIN Forum brought users of the CABIN protocol from across Canada together including Indigenous Peoples, community watershed stewards and scientists, all levels of government, and academia. The Forum provided an opportunity to focus on biomonitoring for the protection of freshwater ecosystem health in the north and across Canada. Potential future CABIN users were invited to learn about current CABIN activities, and share water monitoring experiences and local knowledge.

At the CABIN Forum, Living Lakes Canada shared experiences, challenges and lessons learned from leading the CABIN field practicum training across Canada over the last 5 years, as well as successes from the first year of the STREAM project, the national community-based water monitoring initiative using the new technology of DNA metabarcoding. 

“The cross-sector collaboration, along with the strong community participation and motivation for watershed protection that we witnessed, provided lessons and knowledge for us to bring back, share and implement within our communities,” said Living Lakes Canada Program Manager Raegan Mallinson. “We are grateful for the experience and shared learning that the water stewards of the north provided.”

Click on photos below to enlarge. 

Moving into 2020 with groundwater monitoring

As we move into 2020, the Columbia Basin Groundwater Monitoring Program will continue to partner with well owners to monitor groundwater levels to assess how they change seasonally and year to-year. 

We monitor existing groundwater wells that are not used to withdraw water so that ambient aquifer conditions are measured rather than drawdown from pumping in a particular well. Currently, the Program is monitoring wells in or near the Basin communities of ʔaq̓am, Blewett, Brisco, Castlegar, Cranbrook, Creston, Duhamel, Fairmont, Invermere, Playmor Junction, and Windermere. 

The most recent data for the majority of these sites are available on the BC Real-time Water Data website. The data helps citizens, community groups, water managers, water licensing officers, consultants and researchers understand groundwater conditions to inform water management and conservation actions.   

The Columbia Basin Groundwater Monitoring Program exhibited at the East Kootenay Invasive Species Council Agricultural Forum in Fort Steele, BC on November 21.

We wrapped up 2019 with attending the East Kootenay Invasive Species Council Agricultural Forum where we had an opportunity to learn from the agricultural community about water use and concerns and share information on the Groundwater Monitoring Program.

We also recently established an agreement to monitor an existing well on The Nature Trust of British Columbia’s Hoodoos Conservation Property north of Fairmont Hot Springs (click photos below to expand). This well provides a monitoring site on the benches of the Columbia Wetlands, which are likely important areas for groundwater recharge.

In 2020, in addition to monitoring the existing wells in the Program, we will establish additional monitoring sites across the Columbia Basin:

  • to increase awareness about groundwater;
  • to provide local site-specific data for use in groundwater management, and;
  • to guide conservation actions and adaptation to climate change. 

Visit our Groundwater Program page.

Living Lakes Canada attends Transboundary Conference

In November 2019, Living Lakes Canada attended the Lake Roosevelt Forum Conference in Spokane, Washington. The Forum’s mission is to establish a dialog to strengthen collaboration and cooperation among stakeholders who have interests in and around Lake Roosevelt, which resulted from creating a reservoir to support operational capacity at the Grand Coulee Dam, located on the Columbia River in the state of Washington.

This conference provided an opportunity for our team to connect with local and federal government, Native American Tribes, NGOs and academia who are working on projects that tie into Living Lakes Canada’s Columbia Basin Water Monitoring Collaborative. Partnering with groups south of the border in the future would allow a larger diversity of water data to be shared.

Networking with individuals and groups who are working under the current Columbia River Treaty was a great opportunity to link priorities such as salmon restoration and reintroduction into Living Lakes Canada’s diverse water monitoring programs.

 “It was inspiring to witness the increased tribal participation in the Columbia River Treaty (CRT) and collaboration between Native American Tribes who are advocating an ecosystem-based management approach,” said Program Manager Avery Deboer-Smith.

A 2010 document titled Common Views on the Future of the Columbia River Treaty continues to be the guiding less for all participating tribes. Updated in 2015, it outlines a proposal for representing Columbia Basin tribes’ interests in the reconsideration and implementation of a modernized treaty.

Sharing water data to help inform decisions around fish rehabilitation can lead to an enhanced importance of ecosystem-based functions in future negotiations of the CRT.

Learn more about the Lake Roosevelt Forum.

Travelling tour brings together Columbia Basin water stewardship groups

From November 25-28, 2019 the Columbia Basin Watershed Network (CBWN) Program Manager, a research student from the University of Vermont and team members from Living Lakes Canada (LLC) travelled throughout the Columbia Basin to connect with CBWN member groups through the CBWN Fall Meetings. The purpose of CBWN Fall Meetings travelling tour was to reach out to more members for their monitoring updates and issues they’re facing, as well as provide updates regarding the CBWN transition and collaboration with LLC on the Columbia Basin Water Monitoring Collaborative. The Collaborative is currently directed by an Advisory and sub-committees to finalize a water monitoring framework and open source water data hub (water data commons*) that CBWN members will be able to access and contribute to.  

Alan Thomson – CBWN Board Member (Nelson meeting)

The first meeting in Nelson was very well-attended. The team heard about local water monitoring successes in addition to numerous concerns surrounding logging within local watersheds. Groups reiterated efforts to increase water quality monitoring in order to assess logging impacts on local water quality. Groups were encouraged to continue monitoring and record data to raise awareness and support decision makers in gauging impacts for required remediation. 

The New Denver meeting was well-attended and included a range of hydrology, agronomy and forestry experts who relayed information regarding their long-term monitoring work in creeks such as Bonanza, Carpenter and Silverton. Topics covered included invasive species monitoring, difficulties with access to monitoring sites, increased tributary temperature and associated impacts to fish and increased frequency of landslides as a result of logging. Recently, funding was awarded to rehabilitate three wetlands along Bonanza Creek, to enhance suitable wildlife habitat in the area while improving water quality. 

In the Invermere area, groups conducting detailed monitoring are noticing impacts to Kootenay River and Columbia Lake as a result of point source inputs from the Canal Flats area. The data collected also raised the need for a better understanding of the flow and gradient of the Kootenay River. All groups continue to suffer funding challenges. Community participation in monitoring remains high through involvement with the Lake Windermere Ambassadors and the Columbia Lake Stewardship Society.

The Cranbrook meeting completed the travelling tour, and was attended by employees from both the City of Cranbrook and Village of Canal Flats to discuss concerns for improved water management from a drinking water perspective as well as for source water protection. Flood mitigation and the relationship between water quality and climate change were raised along with air quality health concerns due to forest company slash burning. Considerable efforts are being made by local groups in their joint program development with First Nations youth and school groups as well as transboundary groups. Invasive mussels are a concern for groups in Montana with the development of highly technical detection systems proving to be useful for reducing the movement of Zebra and Quagga mussels into B.C. 

Groups were able to share concerns, discuss successes and brainstorm for future collaborations within the Basin. Collaboration will increase the overall success of community based water monitoring and data collection, and will support future management practices and decision makers. Thank you to all groups who took the time to attend! 

Click here for the full CBWN Fall Meeting Report. 

Join our team! We are hiring a Foreshore Inventory Mapping Program Manager

Foreshore Inventory Mapping for Aquatic Species at Risk Program Manager Position Overview

  • Title of Position: Program Manager, Maternity leave fill
  • Terms of Employment: January 15, 2020 to March 2021; Approximately 15 hours per week
  • Wage: To Be Determined
  • Location: Nelson, BC
  • Start Date: January 15, 2020
  • Deadline to Apply: December 20, 2019
  • Submit Application to: Heather Leschied, Operations Director, Living Lakes Canada at


About Living Lakes Canada:

Living Lakes Canada facilitates collaboration in education, monitoring, restoration and policy development initiatives for the long-term protection of Canada’s lakes, rivers, wetlands and watersheds. We work collaboratively with scientists, all levels of government including First Nations, industry, academia, and community based organizations. Our mandate is to help Canadians understand the intimate connections between water quantity, water quality, land-use, climate change, biodiversity, and healthy human communities by fostering a water stewardship ethic that all Canadians can be proud of.  

Living Lakes Canada has led water stewardship initiatives in the Columbia Basin for over two decades, and were instrumental in establishing Friends of Kootenay Lake, Lake Windermere Ambassadors, Stewards of the Lac La Biche Watershed, and most recently Brilliant Headpond Stewardship Collaborative. Our water stewardship work has been recognized by the Federal government as a best practices example in community-based monitoring, and we were awarded the “Land Award” by the Real Estate Foundation of BC, “Water Hero” award by WWF Canada, and “Water’s Next” award by Water Canada.

Living Lakes Canada is affiliated with Living Lakes International, a global network of over 120 non-government organizations that share the mission to enhance the protection, restoration and rehabilitation of lakes, rivers, wetlands and watersheds throughout the world. Living Lakes Canada is a registered BC Society and charitable organization.


Position Description:

Living Lakes Canada is seeking a Program Manager to fill a maternity leave beginning March 2020 through March 2021. To facilitate training, the position start date will be January 15, 2020.  We are seeking an individual with experience in the non-profit sector to act as Program Manager for the Foreshore Inventory Mapping for Aquatic Species at Risk project.

The successful candidate will possess strong leadership, communications, inter-personal and organizational skills. The Program Manager will work independently, but collaborate with the Living Lakes Canada team, the Project Team and the project Technical Committee.


Project Description:

Foreshore Inventory Mapping (FIM) is a methodology developed in 2004 in partnership with Fisheries and Oceans Canada. It maps foreshore habitats, assesses habitat value and establishes Shoreline Development Guidelines to conserve ecosystems and species of conservation concern. The Foreshore Inventory Mapping for Aquatic Species at Risk project will evaluate and revise FIM standards and methodologies to ensure the long-term credibility of the methods and provide a benchmark by which to compare habitat changes over time. FIM has been applied to 13 lakes across the Columbia Basin since 2006. The revised methodology will be applied to priority lakes as new or re-FIM projects, assessing the rate of change of shoreline health over time.


Program Manager Responsibilities: 

  • Manage grant Contribution Agreements
  • Compile and submit grant interim and final reports as required
  • Manage and issue Request for Proposals and contracts
  • Distribute and manage project documents and resources
  • Receive and collate input and comments on documents and files from partners and collaborators
  • Schedule and plan meetings, workshops, field events
  • Manage project budget
  • Communicate projects achievements to various partners and collaborators
  • Oversee project implementation and ensure timelines are being met


Program Manager Requirements:

  • An undergraduate degree in a related field
  • Demonstrated experience in project and contractual management
  • Reliable, self-motivated and independent with a demonstrated ability to collaborate well within a team
  • Ability to set priorities and meet deadlines
  • Demonstrated personal accountability
  • Experience collaborating with multiple agencies, stakeholders and partners across different sectors
  • Strong communications skills
  • Strong organizational skills
  • Strong writing skills
  • Commitment to Living Lakes Canada’s mission


To Apply:

Applicants are asked to send a cover letter and CV in PDF form to by December 20, 2019. We thank all applicants for their interest, but only short-listed candidates will be contacted.

Living Lakes Canada Annual Report 2018-2019

Inside our 2018-2019 Annual Report, meet the Living Lakes Canada team, funders and partners, gain insight into all our active programs, find links to reports, articles and more.

This annual report covers Living Lakes Canada activity in our 2018-2019 fiscal year, from October 1, 2018 through to September 30, 2019.

Living Lakes Canada is fortunate to have an energetic, passionate team of dedicated individuals who understand the limitations of current constructs and who strive to make the changes needed on whatever scale that can make a difference. For us, this scale is mainly in the grassroots work of engaging and training Indigenous and non-Indigenous community groups to monitor and collect water data from streams, lakes, wetlands and groundwater wells. Water stewardship empowers communities to engage and take an active role in the health of their watersheds, which impacts their own well-being.

~ Kat Hartwig, Message from the Executive Director

Download the 2018-2019 Annual Report here or click on the cover below: 


With the support of

Follow Us

for the latest updates, news and more.

Join our Mailing List

to receive our newsletter and stay informed.

Sign up to receive our quarterly newsletter: the Living Lakes Canada News Stream