Riverkeeper to launch new water literacy program in Edmonton

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Doug Goss (centre) presents a cheque to Riverkeeper board members Britt Standen (l) and Karen Percy Lowe (r) to support water literacy work in Edmonton.
Doug Goss (centre) presents a cheque to Riverkeeper board members Britt Standen (l) and Karen Percy Lowe (r) to support water literacy work in Edmonton.

 

North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper is launching a new water literacy program in Edmonton. Beginning in spring 2017, a full-time coordinator at Riverkeeper will help local residents discover the watershed, find swimmable water, and document local water knowledge.

The coordinator is part of a water literacy network established by Swim Drink Fish Canada in 2017, with hubs in Vancouver, Edmonton, and Toronto. The project is made possible by the Edmonton TELUS Community Board.

 

Watermark with Kevin Lowe

One of North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper’s directors, Kevin Lowe’s interest in clean water grew out of his original bond with the Shuswap Lake. As he became educated on everyday practices that were threatening our watersheds, Kevin felt a pull to take responsibility for stewardship of this lake and other waters. Along with his wife Karen, Kevin has developed a leadership role as a Canadian Trustee in the Waterkeeper Alliance. They have worked hard in collaboration with other Canadian waterkeepers to make the North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper program a leader in the protection and preservation of our watershed.

As the President of Hockey Operations for the Edmonton Oilers and long-time resident of Edmonton, Kevin demonstrates commitment and dedication to making Edmonton a great city. Other endeavours include his support for fundraising efforts by the Stollery Children’s Hospital and leadership role with the Edmonton Oiler Community Foundation.

I grew up about an hour northwest of Montreal in the small city of Lachute, nestled in the foothills of the Laurentians, in Quebec’s cottage country. My family didn’t own a cottage back then; my father and uncles worked together running the family business and I think that sort of forced us to stick close to town during the summer months. But that never stopped us from loading the whole family up in our cars on hot, humid summer days and taking the 20 minute drive north to picnic at a place we used to called ‘Flat Rocks’. It was a spot where a stream (whose name escapes me now) flowed over a series of little waterfalls, forming small pools that were perfect for swimming. I’ll always remember the instant relief I felt jumping into those cool clean waters, and the great times we had together on the banks.

Now my family does have a cottage. It’s on Shuswap Lake in Southern B.C., where the summers are often scorching. On some of the hottest days, my wife and I would take our kids on hikes through Herald Provincial Park to Margaret Falls so we could all cool off in the spray from the waterfall. The comparison feels a bit funny now, but standing in the mists of that thundering waterfall with my kids would always bring me back to those days splashing around at the Flat Rocks with my family. I guess that’s probably why I care so much about safeguarding swimmable, drinkable, fishable water today; so everyone has a place to beat the heat and enjoy some good times with the people they love.

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

To submit a Watermark of your own click here.

Watermark with Karen Percy Lowe

Born and raised near the Bow River in Banff, Karen has always felt a connection with water and passion for global water issues. An Olympic and professional downhill skier, Karen’s interest and concern grew when she was asked to ski with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. at the Annual Waterkeeper Alliance fundraiser in Banff six years ago. Wanting to bring her passion to the watersheds of her home province, Karen forged a lasting relationship with the Alliance.

Two-time Olympic Bronze Medalist, recipient of the Order of Canada, and mother of five; she is now an active Waterkeeper Trustee, and dedicates ongoing time and support to the efforts of the Waterkeeper Alliance as President of North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper.

I ski-raced for a long time but now I am a mother of four and I do a lot of charity work – which includes being the president of North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper.

Water has been a special part of my life for a really long time. I grew up in Banff, Alberta. The water was so cold there it took your breath away. I used to go canoeing a lot but I was a really big windsurfer. A group of us would take our boards and go to Jack Lake and windsurf. Growing up, I spent my summers by the water. My family would pile in the station wagon and go on trips, and my dad always insisted that we had to park the trailer by a lake.

There are two waterbodies that have made a big impact on my life. The first is the North Saskatchewan River. Twenty-five years ago I married Kevin Lowe. We lived in Edmonton and in New York for a few years and then found ourselves back in Edmonton when he was traded. This is where we raised our four children. My family has lived by this river for a long time. It is important to me that the river is protected because it is Edmonton’s source of drinking water. I want people to have drinking water from the North Saskatchewan River for generations to come. I also run a lot. There are a lot of great trails that run along the river. Years ago I was training for a marathon and I would run down one trail beside the river and back up on the other side. It really is beautiful.

The other water body that I am connected to is Shuswap Lake in British Columbia. We have spent our summers there since 1992. All my kids come – but so do other family members and it ends up being 20 people by the lake. My kids love going there. We swim, fish, jump off the dock, waterski, make waterski pyramids, have canoe races, and paddleboard races. When my kids were young I used to put them to bed and wake them up when it was dark so we could jump in the lake at night. It was a tradition. Its beautiful to be able to jump in the lake. I want my kid’s children to be able to experience that.

Every year I want to do one special thing when the kids come to Shuswap Lake. In the past, we have had seven people waterski behind the boat at one time, we made a water ski pyramid. Then the following year, we made a bigger water ski pyramid. We do it every year, so next year’s pyramid will be even bigger.

I got involved with protecting water when Kevin and I became trustees for Waterkeeper Alliance. We helped raise money and brought people we knew to the events. People kept asking me what was Waterkeeper Alliance, so rather than just explain it, I decided to walk the talk and do something. I wanted to do something local, so that people could understand what Waterkeeper was and see that the money was going local. It was a big project, but I just wanted to explain to people what we were doing and to help grow clean water in Canada. I wanted to protect the water we have since it is our drinking water.

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

To submit a Watermark of your own click here.

The Watermark Project is Here!

North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper, in partnership with the National Water Centre and Waterkeepers across Canada, is proud to announce the official launch of the Watermark Project!

We often forget how water shapes our country, our culture, our lives. We forget how privileged we are to have access to more freshwater and ocean than arguably any other nation in world. When we forget, we become immune to the loss: the destruction and diminishment of Canada’s swimmable drinkable fishable waters.

As Canadians, we need to sharpen our memory. Our water is more than a necessity for keeping us alive, it is the thread that holds us together as a country. And that thread is best seen in our stories about being on, in or around water.

That is why we created the Watermark Project: to collect and archive Canadian water stories to demonstrate why swimmable drinkable fishable water matters.

When you think about your favourite body of water, what comes to mind? When you recall your most powerful memory of being on the water, what is it?  Everyone has a story – a Watermark – that connects them to a waterbody; provides them with another reason to protect it. That story often becomes the most powerful reason for protecting swimmable, drinkable, fishable water. And so it should.

Watermark’s are personal and powerful. Whether your Watermark is a positive or negative story about water, it is also valuable information about your environment, at a specific place, at a specific moment, with real people. In addition to being a powerful reminder of your connection to water, it also records and archives important information that can be used to protect water from future threats. Your Watermark is a ripple in a project intended to keep Canada a place where everyone and everything can safely swim, drink, and fish.

Recording and sharing your Watermark is an incredible personal experience. You can learn so much about yourself by submitting a Watermark, making that connection to a waterbody, causing that ripple. Help us protect your waterbody.

Try it. Build a force strong enough to cause a shift in our water culture so you can’t ever forget again.

Click Here to Discover the Watermark Project!

 

Reblogged from The National Water Centre

 

 

Watermark with Rachel Schoeler

North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper is excited to be partnering in the Watermark Project in 2016!

The Watermark Project is a digital archive that preserves and protects Canada’s water heritage through storytelling. It acts both as a registry for the waters that Canadians love to use, as well as a unique clearinghouse for people’s powerful and personal experiences on those waterbodies.

Check out this awesome video featuring a Watermark from Rachel Schoeler with our friends at Fraser Riverkeeper in Vancouver, BC. Back in August of 2014, Rachel took on the challenge of swimming solo across the Georgia Strait without a wet-suit to raise awareness of recreational water quality issues; becoming the first woman in over 40 years to make the crossing!

 

Be sure to keep an eye on our blog for news about the launch of the Watermark Project website and more Watermarks from North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper’s Directors and other great Canadian water leaders coming in the new year!

 

Source: Fraser Riverkeeper – http://www.fraserriverkeeper.ca/watermark_rachel_schoeler

Federal Government Declares Proposed Mine Site To Be Critical Habitat

Last week, the federal government declared that dozens of streams and rivers in southwestern Alberta are critical habitat for endangered trout species.

On December 2nd, the Alberta Wilderness Association said that it would drop a lawsuit against Ottawa which sought to force the federal government to issue the order. Under law, critical habitat for native cutthroat trout was supposed to have been declared more than a year ago under the previous Conservative government.

“We’re happy that we likely do not have to follow through with it,” said Brittany Verbeek, the association’s conservation director.

Verbeek said the order lends protection to the creeks, streams and tributaries draining into the Oldman and Crowsnest rivers that are home to the trout. The fish were already protected under the Fisheries Act; now their home is protected under the Species At Risk Act.

“It just means that the area surrounding where the fish live has that increased protection.”

Changes to the stream, such as increasing its sediment load, are now forbidden.

The Alberta government is considering an application from a subsidiary of an Australian company to build a coal mine on a mountaintop in the protected habitat. Benga Mining proposes to turn 12 square kilometres on the top of Grassy Mountain near Blairmore into a terraced site.

At the same time, the province’s energy regulator is investigating the company for a release of coal into Gold Creek, one of the streams included in the critical habitat declaration.

A recent survey by a fisheries biologist found virtually all southern Alberta streams that spawn native trout are threatened by industrial development or overuse.

Lorne Fitch studied 54 small rivers and streams that flow into the Oldman River and which hold bull and cutthroat trout, largely in the area now considered critical habitat. He found nearly all of them face damage from logging roads, energy development and off-highway vehicle trails.

Scientists suggest land that contains trout streams shouldn’t have more than just over half a kilometre of trail, cutline or road per square kilometre. The disturbance density in parts of the Oldman watershed is nearly 10 times that.

Cutthroat populations are estimated at five per cent of historic levels.

 

From Bob Weber – The Canadian Press

Source: http://www.ctvnews.ca/business/feds-say-proposed-alberta-coal-mine-site-a-key-fish-habitat-1.2684688

Photo credit: Robert Berdan

 

 

Blue-Green algae: What do you need to know?

Blue-green algae is a cyanobacteria present in all Alberta lakes. It grows best in still or slow-moving water when the weather is warm, which is why we see more blooms in the summer. When phosphorus and nitrogen are present, the bacteria will reproduce more quickly.

Blue-green algae is already beginning to make an appearance this summer in our Alberta lakes. This year, Alberta Health Services announced they would be changing the way they warn the public about the blooms.

So what do you need to know to stay safe on the water?

  1. The new regulations will inform you if cyanobacteria is present, but you’ll only be cautioned to avoid the water if a bloom is visible.

In the past, lake users were warned not to swim or wade in lakes if the bacteria was present at all. Now, advisories will be posted if the bacteria is present, but lake users will only be cautioned to stay away from physical signs of a bloom. It’s important to remember that blooms can move rapidly from location to location, so look before you swim!

  1. The warning will stay in place until the risk is no longer present.

Make sure to regularly check the Swim Guide and AHS for updates on cyanobacteria advisories, and do visual checks of your water body before swimming, wading or drinking.

  1. Blue-green algae is extremely toxic, and will make you ill – even after boiling or filtering the water.

Avoid all contact with blue-green algae, and wash with soap and water if you come into contact with it. Contact with blue-green algae can lead to skin irritation and/or reactions in the eye, ear, nose and throat. It can also lead to more severe side effects, including headaches, diarrhea, vomiting, and fever.

  1. If you know cyanobacteria is present in your lake, make sure to look for physical signs of a bloom.

Blooms generally smell pungent and strongly grassy. They coat the surface of the water and look like a blue or green scum, though they can range in colour from white to red to brown.

  1. If you see a bloom, let your local health unit know and send us an email.

If you see a bloom and there is no advisory posted, mak sure to call your local health unit so they can share the advisory on their website, through social media, and with local media outlets. Sending us an email makes sure we can create a pollution report, helping spread the word and protect the health of our watershed community.

Sources

Algae. (2015). Rural Consolidated Industries LTD. Retrieved from http://www.algae.info/Algaecomplete/tabid/1131/Default.aspx#bgreen.

NSRK Fall 2014 Update

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The NSRK Fall 2014 Update is posted here.

Check it out and see what we have been up to. 

Briefly, we have been responding to a number of citizen/community concerns and looking for solutions.

The Swim Guide for Alberta and Saskatchewan had an amazing summer guiding people away from posted beaches and to cleaner beaches. We have had over 94,000 views in 2014 to date.

We were promoting and participating in a number of “on the water” events getting people connected to their waters over the summer.

Finally, we continue represent our water and aquatic species when consulting and making recommendations to government and multi-stakeholder processes such as the North SK Regional Plan.