“Until the end of time”: Interview with Riverkeeper founder, Karen Percy Lowe

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Two-time Olympic alpine skiing bronze medalist, Karen Percy Lowe, shares her inspirations for founding the North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper and contributing to a growing movement across Canada to protect swimmable, drinkable, fishable water for everyone.


Behind the scenes of the Swim Drink Fish movement, you will find water leaders across the country who love the water, spend time on and in the water, and who are working to protect local water bodies so that everyone in Canada can swim, drink, and fish forever. This growing network of leaders includes people from all walks of life, all with their own unique connections to water, and each leading the movement in their own ways.

Hundreds of volunteers are working to drive community-based monitoring on our rivers and lakes. Others are sharing their Watermark stories with friends and family, constantly reminding us that we all have a cherished connection to water in so many special ways. Many more are teaching their communities how to enjoy the water through pursuits like canoeing, fishing, swimming, rowing, sailing, surfing, and more. Connected to their local water bodies, these leaders are learning to protect them and and address the challenges that threaten our freedom to enjoy swimmable, drinkable, fishable, water.

Among these many leaders you will find two-time Olympic bronze-medalist, Karen Percy Lowe. As you can imagine, Karen is no stranger to hard work. “When I want something, I want something,” she says with a laugh. Her dedication as as an alpine skier representing Canada on the podium at the ‘88 Calgary Winter Olympics naturally found a new cause when she completed her career as an athlete.

Together with her husband, Kevin Lowe, Karen served on the board of Waterkeeper Alliance, a water movement based in the United States with chapters throughout North America and around the globe. Before you knew it, Karen and her close friend and co-founder, Britt Standen, were determined to “walk the talk” and launch a local organization that would protect the North Saskatchewan River.

“I wanted to do something right here in Edmonton that people would completely understand and connect to,” says Karen. Founded in 2009, North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper works to protect swimmable, drinkable, fishable rivers and lakes for everyone in the watershed. By working closely with Swim Drink Fish Canada and Waterkeeper initiatives across Canada, Karen’s work locally in Edmonton helps drive a national movement to connect communities to local water bodies. The partnership focuses on the development of innovative water stewardship platforms that engage everyday people and empower them with water stewardship tools that easily become a part of their everyday life … asking yourself where to plan your family beach outings this summer?

Check out the Swim Guide app to see a map of all the local beaches, discover what they have to offer, and check whether the water meets guidelines for swimming and recreation. Then, go and enjoy the weekend! If you do see pollution, report it using a convenient tool built right into the app. You might also check out www.WatermarkProject.ca, a multimedia story collecting initiative that works to celebrate and protect water bodies across Canada and around the world. The Swim Drink Fish community would love to hear a story about how water has shaped you in your life. These are the stories that drive efforts to protect clean water – we all have one and Karen is no exception.

“When I was a child, I would go camping with my parents. They loved to camping. And I loved to go with them,” she reflects. “They always picked a campsite on water.”

The impression that these experiences left on Karen is evident in the way that she and Kevin have raised their own children, spending summers at their cottage on Shuswap Lake. “That’s their favourite place in the world,” she says. It is memories like these that drive Karen’s passion and after 7 years of work on water, she’s beginning to see some real rewards.

“The North Saskatchewan is the vein of our city,” says Karen. “I love the fact that people are down there more often, using it more often, realizing how great this river is for our city … knowing that the water is sacred.”

Karen’s work continues and with her background as a competitive athlete, her sights remain set on the goal she has pursued from the beginning.

“My dream is for my children to swim in the water, to drink the water, to fish in the water, to enjoy the water, until the end of time.”

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