On our roads and in our river: New salt spray for Edmonton’s streets?

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At a Community and Public Services Committee meeting last week, the City of Edmonton proposed the introduction of a new anti-icing agent, calcium chloride, in its snow and ice removal strategy. The proposal to spray our roads with a liquid salt brine raises questions about how to balance costs, service priorities, safety, and environmental impacts. Everything we put on our roads also enters our river.

The proposal last week to conduct pilot projects this winter was passed unanimously by the Committee and in a few months time, operators will begin spraying the road with calcium chloride in advance of anticipated snowfalls. Whereas sanding (mixed with a lesser amount of salt to prevent the sand from clumping) is implemented on top of snow or ice, calcium chloride prevents the snow from bonding to the pavement so that traffic movement naturally clears the snow to the roadside. The City says this will result in less plowing, sanding and de-icing as well as higher cost efficiency.

A concern raised by a rust control company in Ontario (where road salts are ubiquitous) warns that calcium chloride will have “dramatic” consequences for vehicle owners and it is well documented that a variety of salt products can cause the deterioration of various public infrastructure including bridges and even the Eliot Lake Mall that collapsed in 2012. The City proposes mitigating these concerns by mixing the liquid salt spray with a corrosion inhibitor.

The environmental impacts of road salts and de-icers are also well-documented and are known to be toxic in aquatic environments. A recent study in April of this year demonstrated that the closer a lake is to a road or parking lot, the higher the threat to water quality. Ecological effects of chlorides are already measurable at levels of 100mg per litre and many water bodies test at levels that are much higher.

Balancing the need to clear our roads and protect our river is less than straight forward, partly due to the number of variables associated with a snow and ice removal strategy (see the city’s cost-benefit analysis). Although sanding constitutes the greater part of Edmonton’s strategy to date, the sand is mixed with a lesser amount of road salt already and to some extent, salt-based de-icing has also been implemented. Furthermore, even with pre-storm anti-icing, some amount of sanding, de-icing, and plowing is sure to continue. The City’s upcoming pilot projects are intended to help clarify these matters and fortunately, the City has indicated plans to invite public input before finalizing a new policy in the summer of 2018.

Given the adverse ecological impacts, the North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper advocates for the prevention of chloride discharges to our water bodies and is looking to see that the City undertakes a clear analysis of snow and ice removal options and their respective ecological footprints. Indeed, last week’s meeting revealed that City councillors are looking for the same information and other City initiatives such as the River for Life strategy advocate changes to the management of our winter roads that will “minimize potential for release of pollutants (notably sand and chlorides).”

As we revise Edmonton’s snow and ice removal strategies, it is interesting to note that the City’s earliest and greatest transportation corridor will continue to retain its cover of snow and ice throughout the winter months and for years to come. It is our river, of course: the heart of our City, an artery that connects one of the largest urban parks in the world, and the life-giving source of our drinking water.

For years, the river has been free of snow-plows, but when it comes to calcium chloride and any additives, let’s not forget that most things we put on our roads end up in our river too.


Reference resources:

Summary of Potential Service Improvements to Snow and Ice Control Policy C409I



What do Blue-green Algae advisories mean for beach-goers?

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As the summer heats up, Albertans have already been handed five blue-green algae advisories and there will, unfortunately, be several more in the coming weeks. What do these advisories mean for beach-goers, swimmers, and recreational water users?

Up until 2015, the blue-green algae advisories issued by Alberta Health Services advised against swimming in any lake that was undergoing a bloom. Several years of water monitoring have demonstrated that these guidelines exceeded the necessary level of caution.

The new rule of thumb is to avoid swimming wherever a blue-green algae bloom is visible. Blooms will often appear only in part of a lake and depending on environmental conditions and wind patterns, a bloom can also move from one part of the lake to another. In general, it is safe to swim as long as the telltale green scum is not visible. Blue-green algae normally appear close to the surface of the water, but keep in mind that if it is windy, the wave action can drive the algae deeper making it more difficult to see.

Unfortunately, if an advisory has been posted, it will generally remain for the rest of the season. The good news is that you can still swim if part of the lake is clear.

Always check the water before entering and if you see a bloom, please report it to your nearest Environmental Health Office. For more information read the Alberta Health Services advisory below.


A typical advisory from Alberta Health Services looks like this:

“Residents living near the shores of this lake, as well as visitors to this lake, are advised to take the following precautions:

  • Avoid all contact with blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) blooms.  If contact occurs, wash with tap water as soon as possible.
  • Do not swim or wade (or allow your pets to swim or wade) in any areas where blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) is visible.
  • Do not feed whole fish or fish trimmings from this lake to your pets.
  • Consider limiting human consumption of whole fish and fish trimmings from this lake, as it is known that fish may store toxins in their liver.  (People can safely consume fish fillets from this lake).

As always, visitors and residents are reminded to never drink or cook with untreated water directly from any recreational body of water, including Isle Lake, at any time. Boiling of this water will not remove the toxins produced by blue-green algae (cyanobacteria). An alternate source of drinking water should also be provided for pets and livestock, while this advisory is active.

Blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) is naturally occurring, and often become visible when weather conditions are calm.  Appearing like scum, grass clippings, fuzz or globs on the surface of water, blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) can be blue-green, greenish-brown, brown, and/or pinkish-red, and often smell musty or grassy.

People who come in contact with visible blue-green algae (cyanobacteria), or who ingest water containing blue-green algae (cyanobacteria), may experience skin irritation, rash, sore throat, sore red eyes, swollen lips, fever, nausea and vomiting and/or diarrhea. Symptoms usually appear within one to three hours and resolve in one to two days. Symptoms in children are often more pronounced; however, all humans are at risk of these symptoms.

Weather and wind conditions can cause algae blooms to move from one location in the lake to another.  As such, this advisory will remain in effect for Isle Lake, until further notice.

Please note that areas of Isle Lake in which the blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) bloom is NOT visible can still be used for recreational purposes, even while this Blue-green Algae (Cyanobacteria) Advisory is in place.

If you suspect a problem related to blue-green algae (cyanobacteria), or if you require further information on health concerns and blue-green algae (cyanobacteria), please call Health Link at 811. Additional information is also available online, at www.ahs.ca/bga.

Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than four million adults and children living in Alberta. Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans.”

source: http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/news/Page13928.aspx

Looking for a beach this Canada Day weekend?

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The Canada Day weekend is proving to be a hot one and many Albertans are taking to the beach. Where will you stake out your stretch of sand?

If you’re weighing the options, take a look at the Swim Guide map to see beaches in your area and to see the latest water quality information. Before you pack and go, you’ll want to know whether to expect restrooms, showers, lifeguards, potable water, a concession, or perhaps a more secluded getaway that you can enjoy with a small handful of fellow beach combers.

Perhaps most importantly, you’ll want to be sure the water is safe for swimming. Throughout the summer, use the Swim Guide smartphone app to check water quality updates and to be sure that your beach has not been posted with an advisory.

As of July 1st, Alberta Health Services has posted blue-green algae advisories for Lake Isle, but swimmers should still be sure to look for the telltale green scum before entering the water at other lakes in the province. If you think you see a bloom, you can report to Alberta Health Services at the closest environmental public health office.

Blue-green algae (or cyanobacteria) are a pre-historic bacteria that live in waters of all kinds almost everywhere on the planet, and when they exist in high enough concentrations, the cells themselves as well as the toxins they produce (like microcystin) can pose a threat to human health and lead to symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, skin rashes, or headaches. Read more about blue-green algae.

Advisories are also posted when test results indicate contamination from human sewer and waste. Most Albertans are also familiar with swimmer’s itch and while there are no advisories for this nuisance, you can view and submit recent reports here.

North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper wishes you a safe and enjoyable weekend of swimming and summer beach fun! On our part, we will be enjoying the sun from Devonshire beach on Lesser Slave Lake – one of the longest stretches of sand in the province. See you on the water!


The Year Ahead: Water Literacy Program Highlights

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In partnership with Swim Drink Fish Canada, the North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper’s has this year’s water literacy programs well underway. Our new Water Literacy Manager, Hans Asfeldt, is leading the programs and of the many engagements he will pursue this year here are some key highlights.


Water quality monitoring program set to launch this July

In the coming weeks, Edmontonians will for the first time be able to access ongoing recreational water quality information about the North Sasakatchewan River throughout the summer. The program is now in its final stages of development and is set to begin this July. While there is a variety of water quality monitoring conducted by utility providers and government agencies, there is currently no monitoring of the river that specifically supports recreational access.

With the aim to promote river recreation in the Edmonton area, weekly testing for bacterial indicators will be conducted near Sir Wilfred Laurier Park and Capilano Park boat launches. Water quality information will be made available to the public on an ongoing basis through the Swim Guide platform, an interactive tool and smartphone app developed by Swim Drink Fish Canada. The program is designed both to promote and encourage recreational activities on the North Saskatchewan River and to ensure that users know when it’s safe to be in the water.

Keep posted for more details about the monitoring program in the coming weeks! In the meantime, download our Swim Guide app to find a beach near you and view the latest water quality updates.


Swim Guide tool used by more and more Albertans

Since 2011, Swim Guide has remained the single most comprehensive beach water quality service in Canada and its global reach continues to extend throughout the United States, Baja Mexico, and New Zealand. Of all jurisdictions in which Swim Guide operates, Alberta boasts the second highest level of engagement. While there are many contributing factors, this is partly a reflection of the love we have for our lakes. It also indicates a widespread interest and demand for water quality information. Lastly, it is a reminder that water quality problems remain a real challenge in Alberta and there is a need for ongoing advocacy and conservation efforts.

Historically, North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper has been heavily involved in promoting awareness of water quality issues in Alberta’s lakes and given trends that indicate increasing levels of public engagement about beach water quality, we will continue to direct much of our work toward better access to water quality information, more widely implemented monitoring programs, and above all, the protection of our lakes and rivers so that the number of water advisories decreases over the long term.

Look for an upcoming blog post that will explore the effects of climate change on lake water quality, algal blooms, and beach closures.


Watershed Education will engage Edmonton area highschool students

North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper is expanding its water literacy program to work directly with high school students and youth in the Edmonton region. We envision a watershed where everyone knows the source of their drinking water and where everyone has a voice in decisions that impact our water bodies. Our youth education program is designed to strengthen the connections between our river and the youth in our community – both of which are essential for a prosperous future.

Classroom engagement will begin in September with the new school year and additional literacy events will be hosted in the community throughout the year. If you are a teacher or a member of a community organisation and are interested in working with the North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper to host a watershed literacy seminar or workshop we would love to hear from you!


Watermark Project celebrates stories from the North Saskatchewan River Basin

Everyone has story about water. What’s yours?

Developed by our partner, Swim Drink Fish Canada, the Watermark Project is a national database that documents Canadians’ stories about water. By sharing “watermarks”, Canadians from across the country can register a precious waterbody and tell their stories about why it’s worth protecting. There are many watermarks in the North Saskatchewan River Basin and with a number of them collected already, we look forward to hearing more stories over the coming year. Click here to read and watch the watermarks that your fellow watershed stewards have contributed and consider submitting one of your own!


Thank you to our Sponsors and Supporters

North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper extends its sincere gratitude to the Edmonton Telus Community Board and to the RBC Blue Water Project for their generous financial support. These contributions together with the incredible ongoing support from the members of our Riverkeeper and Swim Drink Fish communities provide strong foundations for protecting clean and abundant water throughout the North Saskatchewan River watershed.









North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper welcomes new manager of Water Literacy!

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The North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper, in partnership with Swim Drink Fish Canada, is pleased to announce the debut of our new manager of Water Literacy, Hans Asfeldt!

Hans brings to the role a wealth of experience and leadership on key environmental issues in the Prairie region. With a background in environmental science and political science at the University of Alberta, Hans is ideally positioned to coordinate a diverse range of programs that have evolved since our founding in 2009 and has already made great strides on our new initiatives since stepping into the office on June 1st.

Over the past five years, Hans devoted himself to the development of an inter-disciplinary research initiative at the U of A’s Chester Ronning Centre that investigated the complex challenges of Alberta’s oil and gas economy. As part of his work on energy development in communities across the province, Hans acquired valuable experience as a field researcher and refined a strong set of project management skills that have helped him champion a number of innovative research and engagement projects. Most recently, Hans piloted a community-based research program at the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary that empowered undergraduate students to enhance their classroom learning by directly engaging with knowledge leaders and stakeholders from the field around challenging energy and environment issues. Hans has also produced a series of documentary films about the relationships between land, water, energy, and communities.

With roots in Athabasca and an education earned in Camrose, Hans has always maintained close ties with the creeks and rivers in his backyard. As a professional wilderness canoe guide, Hans is well acquainted with the North Saskatchewan River right from its headwaters. Over the past two years from his home in Edmonton, Hans has also come to love running in the Whitemud Creek Ravine. During his university years, Hans trained as a competitive cross-country runner and skier and together with his paddling ambitions, Hans is an avid outdoors enthusiast. Hans’ appreciation for the diverse urban and rural landscapes of the North Saskatchewan River Basin provides a basis for his view that by working together, we can reclaim and protect pristine waters for generations to come.

“It’s a real honour to join the North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper as manager of Water Literacy,” says Hans. “I am far from alone in my love for the river and it is a privilege to work alongside such a rich and vibrant community of watershed stewards from across the province.”

Hans will be out on the river regularly to monitor water quality and he will be engaging the community frequently through our education and advocacy programs as well as through our website, Facebook and Twitter. If you would like to reach Hans directly, please contact him here.

Congratulations, Hans, and welcome to the team.

JOB OPPORTUNITY: Full-time Water Literacy Coordinator

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North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper in partnership with Swim Drink Fish Canada is seeking a Water Literacy coordinator for a full-time contract to help develop and launch a water awareness and community engagement program in Edmonton.

This position is a perfect opportunity for someone passionate about protecting Edmonton-area waters and eager to engage with the community. We are looking for a motivated individual with knowledge of basic water literacy concepts (watershed, drinking water quality, swimming and boat access locations, plants and animals in the watershed, etc.) and excellent communications skills.

The Water Literacy Coordinator will work with the Swim Drink Fish Canada teams (based in Toronto and Vancouver) to develop and deliver online and in-person educational messages, presentations and resources that will help Edmonton-area residents better understand the watershed they live in. Ultimately, the Coordinator will help to inspire thousands of people in the Edmonton area to become stewards of swimmable, drinkable, fishable waters.

Responsibilities and Project Timeline

You will oversee the organization’s main program on a full-time basis, including:

In Stage 1 (April – mid-May), the Coordinator will familiarize themselves with all swimming and recreational water access points in the Saskatchewan River watershed and update Swim Guide locations and monitoring information for the 2017 summer season (www.theswimguide.org). The Coordinator will also identify key recreational water access points in Edmonton and establish a water quality monitoring program to test for bacteria pollution.

In Stage 2 (mid-May – June), the Coordinator will launch the water quality sampling program and begin regular Swim Guide updates as regions come online for the summer. The Coordinator will develop a water literacy presentation that describes the Saskatchewan River watershed, its environmental and social history, its current uses, its ecological health, and current issues of interest to the public. Using available resources, the Coordinator will familiarize themselves with the swimmability, drinkability, and fishability of the region. By this stage, the Coordinator will begin collecting Watermark stories from members of the community (www.watermarkproject.ca).

In Stage 3 (July – August), the Coordinator will manage the water quality monitoring program, recruit volunteers to assist as necessary, and build the collection of Watermark stories in the Edmonton community. During this stage, the Coordinator will begin booking water literacy presentations for the fall. Most presentations will be geared towards youth in the Edmonton area.

In Stage 4 (September – March), the Water Literacy Coordinator will engage the community in water literacy activities and build Watermark collections that document knowledge and perspectives in the community.

In Stage 5, the Coordinator will report on the project’s impact and develop a strategy and recommendations for the next phase of the project.

Throughout the project, the Water Literacy Coordinator will be responsible for curating and publishing Watermarks to the Watermark Project website (http://www.watermarkproject.ca), managing North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper’s social media presence, blogging regularly, sending email updates to Riverkeeper’s subscriber list, reporting on project impact to the Board of Directors and to the project funds (RBC and TELUS), and helping to secure additional grant and individual donor support for water literacy work in Edmonton.

Required skills and experience

  • A strong understanding of Alberta’s ecosystems with an emphasis on the Saskatchewan River (knowledge of other major Canadian watersheds is also an asset)
  • Enjoy spending time on the water and be able to act as an ambassador for an active, water-friendly lifestyle
  • Be familiar with WordPress, know how to post and edit content
  • Have some experience engaging the community through social media
  • Be detail-oriented, able to organize information and content
  • Have strong professional communications skills, capable of handling outreach to school organizations, media, board members, and other constituents
  • Familiarity with database systems such as Salesforce is desired, but not required
  • Be able to write effective emails and briefing notes for board and funders
  • Have a background in education or experience leading small groups/ teams
  • Have at least one year’s work experience in a nonprofit or educational setting
  • Bi-lingual preferred, but not required

Position Details

This is a full-time, contract position in Edmonton. The position is open now, and applications will be reviewed as they arrive.

Please send a cover letter ASAP to:
Krystyn Tully
℅ admin@waterkeeper.ca

In your cover letter, please state clearly why you believe you are a great candidate for this position and why you want to work for Swim Drink Fish Canada. Note: Cover letters are very important to us.

About Us

Founded in 2009, North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper’s mission is to restore, preserve, and protect the quality and biodiversity of our watershed through actions that inform and connect our community with the North Saskatchewan River. For more information, visit: http://saskriverkeeper.ca/.

Founded in 2001, Swim Drink Fish Canada is a growing charity working for a swimmable, drinkable, fishable future. Our programs bring together law, science, culture, and digital media in order to connect and empower people to restore polluted places, protect human health, and promote thriving natural spaces. For more information, visit: www.theswimguide.org and www.watermarkproject.ca.

Creeks and Peaks: A Bow River Watermark with Ngaio Hotte

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Ngaio Hotte is a writer, resource economist and facilitator based in Vancouver, BC.

Over the summer of 2015, Ngaio embarked on a journey to cross the Canadian Prairies by canoe with her partner, Harry. This journey gave them a chance to witness incredible parts of our country and to learn new things about one another that they would carry into their marriage. It symbolized the beginning of a commitment to experiencing the world and learn together.

Here Ngaio shares her Watermark about a harrowing experience on the Bow River that, despite costing them their canoe and gear, failed to quash their spirit of adventure…


During the summer of 2015, my partner and I pursued a dream to travel across the Canadian Prairies by canoe. Our journey began on the outskirts of Lake Louise, near the headwaters of the Bow River, and finished near Brandon, Manitoba.. This journey gave us the chance to witness and experience incredible parts of Canada’s landscapes and waterways, and to learn new things about one another. It symbolized the beginning of a commitment to experiencing the world and learning together. The following is an excerpt from my accounts of our journey. The full highlights of this trip are captured on our travel blog, creeksandpeaks.com.

We knew when we started this trip that there would be highs and lows, but we never expected that they would come so early on. What a roller coaster this week has been.

We first put our paddles in the water at Lake Louise just over a week ago. From there, we had a leisurely float down the Bow River past Castle Junction to Johnston Creek canoe campground, then on to Banff the following day. The Banff townsite materialized suddenly, as if out of nowhere in the middle of the mountains. Our first portage of the trip, around Bow Falls, went smoothly, despite one of our water jugs rolling into the river and another being stolen from beside the pathway. From our map, we had expected to find a campground on the outskirts of town, but when we saw none we decided to paddle on to Bow River Campground just past Canmore. We followed the river along below the Three Sisters and Ha Ling Peak, illuminated in the twilight, and arrived at the campground just as night began to fall. The campground was full, but a friendly couple allowed us to squat on the edge of their site for the night.

We awoke the next morning expecting that our day would be occupied by a long, painful portage around the Bearspaw, Kananaskis and Horseshoe Dams. Fate had other plans.

We put into the water after a lazy breakfast and floated along, reaching a fork in the river about a kilometer downstream from the campsite. We agreed that the right side of the fork looked like the correct route to follow. We swung around toward the outside of the fork to avoid a fallen tree in the river; what we didn’t notice was that the current was carrying us toward another tree jutting out from the left side of the riverbank.

We paddled hard to avoid it, but not hard enough. The tree caught Harry in the stomach and stopped the boat dead. Realizing we were in trouble, Harry tipped backward out of the canoe, hoping that would free it. It didn’t.

The canoe had become trapped on another branch. Harry watched helplessly from the water as the boat slowly listed to one side and flipped over, dumping Abby, our dog, and I into the frigid water.

I bobbed to the surface and looked around for Abby, but couldn’t see her. I quickly realized that she must be trapped under the boat. Screaming to Harry, I frantically tried to grab the bow of the boat and drag it toward shore, but the boat was heavy and the current was strong. Harry, much taller than I, swam underneath the boat and found that he could reach the river bottom. Grabbing the gunnel of canoe, he pushed up hard and managed to flip the boat right-side up.

I watched Abby bob out from beneath the boat, looking scared but unhurt. Knowing that we needed to regain control of the canoe, I pushed myself up out of the water and back into the heeavy boat. That I was able to do this from the side, without the canoe tipping, speaks to how heavy the canoe was when fully loaded with our gear. Once in the canoe, however, I could see that our situation was about to become much worse: ahead of us was a large log jam, stretching most of the way across the river.

Seeing that Abby was unable to climb up out of the water on her own, Harry hoised her up onto a nearby log before swimming back toward me and the canoe. I tried to paddle away from the logs, but it was no use. Once again, the canoe became trapped against a log. This time, however, water began to rush in over the sides. As the canoe swamped, I fell out again and was carried downstream toward another part of the log jam. I remembered the advice I had learned about log jams during my training as a raft guide: approach feet first and then push yourself up and on top of the logs. Fortunately, I avoided any sharp branches and climbed out of the water unhurt. Harry was washed up onto the other side of the same log jam. Quickly but cautiously, we began removing what gear we could from the canoe and lifting it to safety on logs while the water rushed through the branches below. Once we had salvaged everything we could, Harry worked on trying to dislodge the canoe. With the current pushing hard against it, there was little he could do.

Once we realized that Harry would not be able to get the canoe unstuck on his own, we decided to call for help. We were trapped in the middle of the river, with freezing cold water flooding through the trees all around us. Luckily, the dry bag with our valuables, including my cell phone, had been accessible and we had strong cellular reception. I phoned 911 and was patched through to the dispatcher in Canmore, who contacted Alberta Public Safety in Kananaskis. Again, we were lucky, because we were able to change into dry clothes and keep warm while we waited. The rescue boat arrived in less than 30 minutes and plucked us all out of the dangerous situation.

We lost our canoe, tent and gear barrel, but we were lucky to make it out alive. We spent the next several days staying with friends in Calgary while we worked with locals, guides from Canadian Rockies Rafting and Canmore Fire Rescue to see if any more of our gear could be retrieved. Several people went out to the log jam but the water was still too high to get close enough to the canoe.

When we finally accepted that it could be a very long time before we got our canoe and the rest of our gear back, if ever, we began to collect borrowed and donated gear from some of the many people who offered to help us out. I started out feeling pretty low as we began the re-grouping effort. After all, this trip has been my dream for many years: this is not the way I had envisioned it unfolding. But as we met up with one person after another, their encouragement began to lift my spirits.

Finally, the night before we were scheduled to get back on the river, we made a trip to Mountain Equipment Co-op for some supplies. As I stood in the emergency supplies section, I looked up at a fellow who was entering the checkout line and was stuck with amazement: there, in front of me, stood my canoeing idol, Karsten Heuer. Karsten and his wife, Leanne Allison, made a documentary about their own canoe trip across Canada, which retraced the footsteps of Canadian author Farley Mowat. That he would appear before me the night before we restart our journey after a major setback was nothing short of incredible.

I told Karsten the story of our journey and our accident. He was familiar with the stretch of river where it had happened and supportive of our continuing. I wrote down his email address and promised to send him updates.

Yesterday, nearly a week after the accident, we made it back onto the river. We were all still a bit shaken, but nevertheless eager to continue on our journey. Geoff MacDonald, who completed his own journey across Canada by canoe with his wife Pam just two years ago, loaned us his canoe and saw us off at the river. It was a fitting end to our week: to begin our journey anew with the support and well wishes of other dedicated Canadian paddlers.


Click Here to check out Ngaio’s story on the Watermark Archive or learn more about Ngaio & Harry’s canoe trip across the prairies by visiting https://creeksandpeaks.com/  


Introducing North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper’s Swim Drink Fish Ambassadors!

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The Waterkeeper Gala in Toronto on Thursday, April 21st, is just one week away!

This year’s Gala will introduce 12 Swim Drink Fish Ambassadors from across Canada. These are individuals who have demonstrated an unparalleled commitment to creating a future where every Canadian can swim, drink, and fish. They are leaders who are promoting water literacy and watershed awareness, kick-starting education and protection programs, and building a strong “Swim Drink Fish Community.”

North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper is proud to have three of our wonderful directors included in this inspiring group of water leaders! Meet our Swim Drink Fish Ambassadors…


Karen Percy Lowe

KarenLoweKaren is a former Canadian alpine skier. She won 2 bronze medals in skiing at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, where she was Canada’s flag bearer in the closing ceremony. Karen is married to former Edmonton Oilers player and current Director of Hockey for the Edmonton Oilers, Kevin Lowe. Born and raised near the Bow River in Banff and travelling the world as an Olympic and professional downhill skier, Karen has always felt a connection with water and interest in global water issues. As a result of this growing concern and interest in clean water for communities everywhere, Karen wanted to bring her passion to her watersheds in Alberta. Karen is the co-founder and President of North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper.

Kevin Lowe

KevinLoweKevin Lowe is a retired defenceman and coach in the National Hockey League and the current President of Hockey Operations for the Edmonton Oilers. As a defenceman, he played for the Edmonton Oilers and the New York Rangers. Kevin is a long-time supporter for swimmable, drinkable, fishable water and Waterkeeper-work. Kevin’s interest in clean water and water issues grew out of his original bond with the Shuswap Lake. The responsibility of stewardship of this lake and the other waters began with him learning more about everyday practices which can harm lake water quality. Today, he is a Director for the North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper.


Britt Standen

BrittStandenBorn and raised in Edmonton, Britt Standen is the President and owner of Physique Fitness Stores. For the past 5 years, Britt has attended and supported the Waterkeeper Alliance fundraiser in Banff and Lake Louise. Living on the river banks of the North Saskatchewan River for the past 30 years it was a natural progression to “walk the talk” and she along with Karen Percy Lowe co-founded the Saskatchewan Riverkeeper group. She is currently the Vice President and Treasurer of the North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper.



Click here to meet the other Swim Drink Fish Ambassadors and learn more about the Waterkeeper Gala!


Happy World Water Day 2016!

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Join us in celebrating World Water Day at North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper and learn more about how you can become a Canadian Water Leader!

What is World Water Day?

World Water Day is an international observance and an opportunity to learn more about water related issues, be inspired to tell others and take action to make a difference. World Water Day dates back to the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development where an international observance for water was recommended. The United Nations General Assembly responded by designating 22 March 1993 as the first World Water Day. It has been held annually since then. Each year, UN-Water — the entity that coordinates the UN’s work on water and sanitation — sets a theme for World Water Day corresponding to a current or future challenge. The engagement campaign is coordinated by one or several of the UN-Water Members with a related mandate.

Better Water, Better Jobs

Today, almost half of the world’s workers – 1.5 billion people – work in water related sectors and nearly all jobs depend on water and those that ensure its safe delivery. Yet the millions of people who work in water are often not recognized or protected by basic labour rights. The theme in 2016 — water and jobs — is focusing on how enough quantity and quality of water can change workers’ lives and livelihoods – and even transform societies and economies. (Source: http://www.unwater.org/worldwaterday/about)

Become a Canadian Water Leader

With roughly 20% of the world’s freshwater found in Canada, it’s critical that Canadians do our part to safeguard this precious resource for future generations; it’s critical that we all become Water Leaders in our communities. But how do we do it?

The first step is to discover your Watermark, that powerful memory of a lived experience that’s shaped your personal connection to water; that defines what water means to you.

The next step is to become educated about your local watershed; learn where your drinking water comes from, what fish and wildlife share it with you.

Once you’ve learned a bit more about your watershed, get out there and experience it! Jump in, take a swim, go for a paddle, get your fishing line wet and maybe catch some dinner! Make some memories on the water with your family and inspire the younger members to get involved too.

If you’re going to defend your watershed, you’re going to need to know the rules: educate yourself on the laws and regulations that protect fish and water in your community. Participate in local decision making to make sure that your voice is heard.

Finally, take an active role in protecting your watershed. Volunteer at a local cleanup or fundraising event, donate to a local organization that defends fish and water, devote your time on a board of directors or found a non-profit of your own.

We all have what it takes to be a Water Leader. Take the first step and discover your Watermark today!

You can also download this cool infographic outlining the six qualities of a Water Leader created by our amazing friends at Waterkeeper.



Watermark with Krystyn Tully

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My North Saskatchewan River watermark dates back to 2009. This was around the time Karen and Kevin Lowe, Mark Mattson, and Britt Standen were starting the Riverkeeper organization, based in Edmonton.

I had been asked to join the board of directors for North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper. I’m guessing it had more to do with my experience as a co-founder of Lake Ontario Waterkeeper than my knowledge of the river. I didn’t know as much then about the North Saskatchewan River, or Alberta water issues for that matter!

Britt Standen, one of my fellow directors, has a son named Max. At the time, I don’t think he was even old enough to drive a car, but he was really into aircraft and flying. The Standens had a friend with a small helicopter who was willing to take a couple of the Riverkeeper folks up for a 45 minute tour. He promised to give us an aerial view of both Edmonton and the river that flows through it.

I’d never been in a helicopter before. I thought it would be enormous, but it was sleek and relatively small – almost like a mechanical dragonfly. I sat in the back, away from the domed window in front. I had a side window to myself, with an incredible view of the landscape below as we cruised above the North Saskatchewan River.

What immediately struck me as I looked down at the shining river snaking through Edmonton was how completely different this was from Toronto, where I live and work. Toronto sits on the edge of Lake Ontario, but access to the waterfront is extremely limited, either cut off by the 401 and the Gardiner Expressway or dominated by urban development projects. Here, the city looks as though it has been woven around the river; incorporating wonderful green spaces at almost every bend along its course.

The parkland serves a practical purpose. It is a tool for mitigating the damage caused by seasonal flooding. But the presence of all this green space along the river’s edge meant that people here enjoyed more free and easy access to the riverfront than I did my own waterfront in Toronto. The psychological barriers that I was used to didn’t separate water from city in quite the same way.

This view was the first hint of a perspective that would become clear to me on countless return visits to the city: Edmontonians take great pride in their river.

Looking down at that beautiful river and the city that wove around it, I found myself speechless. The uncharacteristic silence must have been worrying for my fellow passengers. Just before we landed, someone turned from the front. “Are you okay?” said a crackly voice over the headset.

Yes. Absolutely, yes.


Krystyn Tully is a director of North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper. She’s also the co-founder and Vice President of our partner Lake Ontario Waterkeeper. She oversees LOW’s many programs, staff, and volunteers working to create a swimmable, drinkable, fishable Lake Ontario. After graduating from Ryerson University with a degree in Radio and Television Arts, Krystyn worked with Mark Mattson as a researcher at the Walkerton Inquiry. She is currently working towards her second degree in Public Administration and Governance.

On behalf of LOW, Krystyn has written many comments on licenses and legislative proposals that have contributed to better decisions and environmental protections. She has appeared before the Federal Standing Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities (TRAN), and the Ontario Goverment Standing Committee on Legislative Affairs. Krystyn has also been a two-time contributer to the Great Lakes Town Hall, an international organization dedicated to identifying and addressing common issues across our shared Great Lakes. For many years, Krystyn Tully was the Lake Ontario Advisor to Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat Network Fund, now Freshwater Future.

In addition to the day-to-day management of the LOW organization, Krystyn also takes the lead on several of our key ongoing issues alongside Mark. Krystyn oversees LOW’s Clean Water Workshop, a volunteer mentoring program offered to 20 law students each year.

North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper is proud to be a part of the Watermark Project! To check out Krystyn’s Watermark and learn more about the Project, visit the Watermark Project Archive.

To submit a Watermark of your own click here.

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