An open-source database now makes critical water data readily available for water stewardship groups and decision-makers in the Upper (Canadian side) Columbia Basin!Read more
Over 50 freshwater champions registered for our November 19, 2020 virtual gathering to discuss the topic of Funding Water Projects Across Canada. We had a great turnout!
We gathered to find the answer to a thought-provoking question: Is there a desire from the freshwater community to collectively call on the federal government to better fund water projects right across the country? We were asking this question because of the confluence of multiple factors:
- Organizations across the country have water-related projects ready to implement, but lack the resources to do so. As we summarized in a letter to the Prime Minister in May, the Our Living Waters Network compiled a list of over 300 such projects in only three weeks. Imagine the number of projects that exist but are not on the list? Imagine the positive impact on our waters if each of these projects were implemented!
- There is a gap in available federal funding programs that support community-level projects across the country to improve the health of our waters;
- The inclusion of a Canada Water Agency in the latest Speech from the Throne further indicates that the federal government is considering how to better support freshwater health;
- There are good regional examples of organizations asking governments (provincial and federal) for support that can be a source of inspiration for other regions.
We started the virtual gathering with three presentations:
- A case study on the success of the BC Watershed Security Coalition in advocating for an investment in watershed security as a part of BC’s economic recovery plan (slides here)
- The water management context in Quebec (no slides, please see recording)
- Results from research on existing water funding opportunities in Canada from the federal government (slides here).
The recording of the virtual gathering can be found here, but as technology goes... well sometimes it doesn’t go fully. To note, the last presentation was cut off for reasons we will blame on 2020 in general (that is to say, we don’t actually know why it was cut off).
After these informative presentations, we broke into five smaller groups to discuss two questions:
1) Considering the presentation and case studies we’ve seen, what opportunities exist for a coordinated federal ask?
2) Do you feel there is value in making a coordinated federal ask for funding of water projects right across the country?
As a teaser, we certainly heard a lot of support for collectively calling on the federal government to better fund water projects right across the country. Our next steps are to fully digest the detailed notes we took from those breakout dialogues and then to report back to the freshwater community on our next steps given what we heard.
A big thank you to everyone who supported the creation of our virtual gathering and to all of you: the incredible community of freshwater champions!
What does it take to trigger implementation of recommendations posed to the Federal government? For the past nine months the Federal Water Strategy Team has been meeting to explore exactly that. In late 2018, the National Roundtable on Community Based Water Monitoring released a collaborative report with detailed recommendations on how the federal government could advance community based water monitoring (CBWM) efforts across the country. But has there been any action on these recommendations? We all know how frequently collaborative recommendations are published without being translated into action.
Since January 2020, 10 water leaders (NGO’s, funders, tech, academic, watershed groups) from across the country have come together, motivated by their shared goal: to spur federal action on the 2018 CBWM recommendations. Their continued commitment and regional expertise combined with third-party coordination support from OLW has created a fertile container for collaboration.
The group began by prioritizing the roundtable’s 64 sub-recommendations landing on 4 as collective priorities across the country. These 4 priorities were framed in a letter to Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada Jonathan Wilkinson which put into context why these priorities are important in today's ever changing climate.
In follow up to this letter, the Strategy Team is leaning on their government relations skills and engaging government contacts and MPs to validate CBWM as a credible and invaluable source of badly needed water data. As our momentum grows, so does the size and coverage of our Strategy Team. The group of 10 has grown to 20 representing CBWM programs in 5 provinces and with 5 National groups.
Coordinating ‘strategy teams’ is a service OLW offers to Network members working collaboratively to turn the curve on any of our collective impact measures. We provide coordination, and in some cases funding, to help maintain momentum and overcome capacity restraints that usually arise when this type of collaborative work is performed “off the sides of leaders’ desks”.
Collaboration is valuable work, we want to recognize that. And it leads to results!
Investing in 'shovel-ready' and 'shovel-worthy' jobs that advance climate resiliency and water security can create an immediate 3638 jobs and nearly 1.5 million job hours in over 300 projects across the country. By prioritizing investment in small, rural and Indigenous communities we can put people to work across numerous impacted communities from coast-to-coast-to-coast.
Read our letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and to members of the Green Recovery Taskforce, including summary of our research and the over 300 projects we identified.
On April 11, 2019, a wide range of people united by their common concern for Canada’s water future – water and climate scientists, policy experts, legislators, and water decision rights-holders and stakeholders – gathered in Ottawa to discuss solutions for Canada’s emerging water crisis. The event featured a beautiful venue, distinguished panel, and attendance by federal ministers and other senior leaders. But the keystone piece of this event was a report, Water Security for Canadians: Solutions for Canada’s Emerging Water Crisis, that was the culmination of months of work by a coalition of groups who recognize the urgent need for more active federal leadership on water. In January 2020, the POLIS Water Sustainability Project hosted a webinar that discussed the report and key developments since its release.
The Canada Water Act (CWA) is an outdated piece of legislation that is unable to ensure federal water governance can effectively address increasingly complex and pressing water challenges. The Water Security report proposes a radical renewal of the CWA, including the creation of new federal water institutions and a co-drafting process with Indigenous Nations. The report was designed to be impactful, targeting federal decision-makers by laying out a multi-faceted case for legislative renewal that will lead to significant cost savings, more effective governance, and fulfillment of Canada’s commitment to Indigenous peoples.
The report has not had a chance to collect any dust since the launch event in Ottawa. It was well-received at the 2019 Canadian Water Resources Association conference in May, where the report’s main authors hosted a session dedicated to their findings. The report was the basis of engagement work during the 2019 federal election, and was sent to each of the main political parties. We were pleased to see some of the ideas from the report included in election platforms of multiple parties and, following the election, establishment of a new Canada Water Agency as a key priority in the mandate letter issued to Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Johnathan Wilkinson, by the Prime Minister. The introduction of a new Agency presents an opportunity for advocates to propose ideas around its scope, mandate, and core functions. It could also provide an opening for federal policy and legislative renewal on water (e.g., modernized Canada Water Act) under future governments.
Written by: the Forum for Leadership on Water
In 2015, the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This global agenda aims to catalyze actions necessary for humans to live sustainably with each other and the planet by focusing on a variety of thematic areas including people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership. To inspire action, 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been developed and specific targets and indicators have been created under each goal to measure progress.
While reaching the SDGs is going to take many organizations all across the world, for each individual organization, it means understanding the important part we play in the larger picture.
The work of the Our Living Waters Network - and the OLW shared measurement system, which drives many of the collaborative actions we take - is well aligned with many of the SDGs. In particular SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation, but also with specific targets and indicators within SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities, SDG 14: Life Below Water, SDG 15: Life on Land, and SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals.
We know many organizations, from governments to non-profit organizations, funders to businesses, are actively determining how to achieve the SDGs, and as a member of the OLW Network, we invite you to explore our handy guide: Our Living Waters and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which demonstrates how the OLW shared measurement system, and much of the work that you do, helps achieve these SDGs. We hope you will find this guide useful if you are looking to demonstrate how your activities contribute to the SDGs.
Taking a step back, the guide also shows how the OLW shared measurement system provides an excellent roadmap on how to achieve many parts of the SDGs, especially SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation, within the Canadian context, allowing us all to play our important part in the larger picture.
“A $20 bill may feed us a meal, but it will never sustain us,” said a panelist at the Assembly of First Nations Water Symposium, which gathered close to 500 Indigenous water guardians, technicians, government officials and allies. Our Living Waters was on hand to listen and learn from the priorities and discussions at the gathering.
A recurring theme, as the panelist quoted above suggests, focused on building the long-term capacity of Indigenous communities to engage in and solve water challenges themselves. A panel on women and water highlighted this from a technical point of view, stating politicians, companies and non-governmental organizations all want to ‘help solve the crisis of water in First Nations communities’. But, all the panelists emphasized that First Nations should be leading the collaborative efforts. Solving First Nation’s drinking water problems has to be about more than outside organizations knocking on doors selling the latest technological fixes. Rather, Nations need to be engaged as leaders on what solutions are required, and then supported to solve the problems and more importantly, to sustain the solutions now and into the future.
Also, a big focus at the Symposium was the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act. The Act received almost unanimous condemnation by the crowd. Though the criticisms of the Act itself run deep, it’s the process of the legislation’s creation that tops the long list of priority actions. It may best be framed in the words of AFN staff member Irving Leblanc, “Nothing about us, without us.” Drafting legislation about First Nations with inadequate input is beyond insufficient. The legislation, at the very least, should be co-drafted by diverse representation of Canada’s First Nations communities. Check out these documents for more on AFNs analysis of the Act: SDWFN Preliminary Concepts; Water Legislative Reform 2019-2020.
This led to some of my own reflections on how we, as a majority settler base, can do better at allying ourselves with First Nations water concerns. There is certainly overlap in OLW Network priorities to those I heard at the symposium, so the content of what we are concerned about align. However, our priorities and our strategies for implementing priority actions needs to be co-defined with our indigenous partners and allies. And that’s going to take resources, capacity and patience to learn alongside each other. Reconciliation starts at home and in each of our respective organizations.
In 2018, we were excited to launch our second round of grants under the Our Living Waters 2030 Fund. In total $97,000 were distributed to Our Living Waters member groups to collaboratively advance progress on at least one of our 24 impact measures. Priorities for the fund were established directly by our members through an annual survey which helps us align member focus across our impact measures given limited funding dollars. (Not an OLW Network member yet? Sign up here).
It’s amazing what a little bit can do! With these funds, Our Living Waters Network members are now working towards the following inspiring outcomes:
- Positioning fresh water as a priority issue in the lead up to the federal election;
- Working toward renewal of the Canada Water Act with Indigenous and non-indigenous partners;
- Advancing the launch of data hubs in the Columbia, Atlantic and Lake Winnipeg regions;
- Providing tools and support for communities to address sewage problems in their watershed;
- Working with 18 communities across Canada to advance adoption of transformative green infrastructure programs;
- Supporting indigenous representation at the 2018 Living Waters Rally; and
- Helping support 75 water leaders attend a national community based monitoring round-table in Ottawa to advance federal support for citizen science initiatives.
Want to read about the fantastic accomplishments Network members have already made with 2017 grants from the OLW 2030 Fund? Check out these impact stories and be ready to be inspired!
These stories all highlight that together we can make a difference. Thank you to all members of the freshwater community for doing what you do!