It all starts in the headwaters. The Canadian portion of the Columbia River Basin in British Columbia forms the “water tower” of the mighty international Columbia River, which plunges into the Pacific Ocean at Astoria, Oregon. That is, a vast amount of the water flowing through the Columbia River system comes through Canadian soil. Residents of the Canadian Columbia Basin region have an immense responsibility to support water stewardship of these important source waters.
I work as Coordinator of the Columbia Basin Watershed Network (CBWN), a regional umbrella network of watershed stewardship groups that shares experiences, provides resources, and builds knowledge and expertise. Our geographic scope covers the Columbia Basin north of the border, bounded in the west by the Monashee Mountains and in the east by the Rocky Mountains.
The CBWN priorities and programming are guided by our vision that communities are actively engaged in conserving and managing healthy, functioning watersheds. We strive to ensure that local water stewardship groups have the resources and knowledge they need to address their watershed priorities and concerns. In addition to supporting our members, we work to support a water stewardship ethic and enhance water literacy.
Currently, our network is comprised of over 20 local stewardship groups as well as over 300 individual members who represent over 70 local and regional organizations. These local and regional organizations include community associations; First Nation tribes and bands; conservation, environment and water-related NGOs; municipalities, Regional Districts and provincial governments; academic institutions; industries; environmental consultants and other regional networks.
The current water stewardship capacity and enthusiasm to “roll up our sleeves and get to work” in the Canadian Columbia Basin is unprecedented. The CBWN is inspired by our member groups and their dedication to their local lakes, streams, and wetlands. Citizen scientists and volunteers around our basin can be spotted in waders conducting important monitoring activities, providing environmental education and awareness programming for school and bringing communities together to discuss water values.
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” – Dr.Seuss, The Lorax
Most of our water stewards are tireless volunteers who dedicate their own valuable time. As Coordinator, I encourage everyone to participate in local events hosted by watershed groups. These events celebrate their achievements and milestones! Such events will help build momentum to support them in their future projects and initiatives.
With spring quickly approaching, the mountain snowpack will begin to melt and our streams and rivers will start to rise. I would like to think that water stewards in the Canadian Columbia Basin, above and beyond providing clean water to downstream areas, will also direct strong stewardship values to other communities.