Our Year in Review: Achievements and Highlights of 2021 at the Canadian Freshwater Alliance
As the team here at the Canadian Freshwater Alliance gears up for 2022, we’re taking time to reflect on our accomplishments in 2021.
2021 was a tough year. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, internal changes and funding challenges were just a few of the setbacks that plagued our work.
Yet despite that, while reflecting on the year many bright spots stood out to us, so we wanted to share them with you. We hope you’ll read these incredible numbers and feel inspired by the many changes you’ve helped make possible throughout this year.
Melissa holds a deep and unwavering respect for water, and we’re excited to utilize her skills to have a lasting, positive impact on fresh water for all Canadians.
The benefits of getting out into nature are no secret -- science has long proven that connecting to natural spaces has a profound impact on our health and well-being.
So when hundreds of participants took to the shores of the Antler River to learn more about the flora and fauna in this unique ecosystem, we knew they were in for a positive experience.
There were several nature-based challenges, as well as litter cleanups and opportunities to create art out of natural materials for the participants to take part in. It was wonderful to follow along with everyone’s adventures throughout this special day, and we can’t wait to do it again next year!
The 2021 budget was created with the intention of helping get Canada through COVID-19 and setting the stage for a post-COVID economic recovery.
There are a number of measures in the budget that we are happy to see, including:
- Increased supports for green infrastructure and conservation
- Significant investments for clean water and infrastructure in Indigenous communities
- Funding commitment to establish a new Canada Water Agency
This year we had three teams of athletes -- Team SUP, Team Wingfoil and Team Caldwell -- who covered over 100km of Lake Erie's open water to raise awareness and funds to protect this vital freshwater ecosystem.
And while the weather tried to deter them, the aqua-athletes were ultimately successful in making their way to the finishing point -- and in smashing their initial $7,500 fundraising goal by bringing in over $12,000 by the end of the day!
This day wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication of our athletes and partners, who put countless hours and energy into ensuring it was a success. All proceeds raised during the Lake Erie Challenge will go towards combating some of the most serious issues that plague Lake Erie, including toxic algal blooms.
After months of work, we launched the Freshwater Stream, our podcast about BC’s watersheds and the people who care about them.
In each of the six episodes, we talk to a different water leader to learn about the challenges facing their local watersheds and what is being done to solve them.
Already listened and want to hear more? Be on the lookout for season two coming out in early 2022.
Local volunteers, some of our amazing partner organizations and our dedicated team of Lake Erie Guardians all came together to help plant native, wetland-loving plants on a plot of former farmland close to Lake Erie’s shore.
Work like this is especially important because of the many benefits wetlands bring to their ecosystems. Among other things, they support an incredible amount of biodiversity, they protect against flooding and they help filter out pollutants before they enter into larger bodies of water. And as this restoration site is in the Lebo Creek watershed which directs to Lake Erie, this restoration work goes directly towards protecting the water quality in the Lake Erie watershed!
This summer we launched our 2021 Lake Erie Guardians program, where citizen scientists come together and help protect the Lake Erie watershed. We received over 300 applications for the 50 spots we had available!
The Guardians headed out into their section of Lake Erie’s watershed once a month to test the water and collect data.
By crowdsourcing this water quality data, we are able to begin creating a holistic overview of the health of the watershed, which will help other water-focused NGOs, as well as scientists and local government. And if something unusual comes up, we'll be able to compare it to previous data to determine if we're looking at the usual trend or if further investigation is needed.
In addition to monthly water monitoring, the Lake Erie Guardians also participated in shoreline clean-ups, invasive species removal and planting native trees and shrubs.
With the help of partner organizations, the Lake Erie Guardians and a whole host of dedicated volunteers, we planted 313 native trees and plants at London's Sunningdale Pond. These local species will play a crucial role in helping maintain a healthy, livable, and sustainable ecosystem.
In late April, our BC team learned that Tolk Industries was planning on logging a cut block in the Deteau Creek watershed, 500 metres above Vernon’s main water intake and the primary freshwater source for over 50,000 people.
Working with the community of Vernon, the team launched a petition to stop the logging. Within days, over 540 letters had been sent, and local media were picking up the story.
The outpouring of community voices worked. In early May, Tolko Industries backed down from logging the area, stating that they would modify their plans in light of the concerns that the logging activity could pose a risk to local water supplies.
The $75 million BC Watershed Security Fund will provide sustainable funding for communities to build the capacity and resilience required to secure the health of their local watersheds, including the fish, wildlife and nature that depend on them.
This resolution then moved forward to the Union of BC Municipalities AGM in September 2021, where local representatives from across the province of BC also voted for it to pass!
After this year’s summer of drought, we knew we couldn’t stand by watching our water being extracted, wrapped in plastic and sold for exorbitantly marked-up prices anymore. So we launched our Ban the Bottlers campaign, calling for a BC-wide moratorium on groundwater extraction for bottling and export.
After all, nothing grows without water. No forests, no food, no fish. No future.
This campaign is ongoing. Add your voice!
Through our work with the BC Watershed Security Coalition, we were successful in petitioning the BC government to invest $27 million in watershed initiatives and wetland projects across the province.
HWI-supported projects will improve the health of watersheds, create economic and skills development opportunities, generate new learning, and strengthen relationships with First Nations and Indigenous-led organizations.