Melting glaciers, drier weather, and diminished stream flows are signs that the global climate crisis is affecting freshwater resources in the Canadian Columbia River Basin.

Coordinating the collection of important water data to build climate resilience throughout the region is a project of Living Lakes Canada that is now receiving support through the Healthy Watersheds Initiative. The initiative is delivered by the Real Estate Foundation of BC and Watersheds BC, with financial support from the Province of British Columbia as part of its $10-billion COVID-19 response.

The Healthy Watersheds Initiative (HWI) allocated $1 million to Living Lakes Canada (LLC) for the development of a coordinated approach through collaboration with Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in the Canadian Columbia Basin. This is to determine water monitoring priorities, and to train 25 people to conduct water monitoring and water-related restoration work.

“Living Lakes is pleased to continue our work on building a greener economy through the work of water monitoring and stewardship in the Columbia Basin,” said Kat Hartwig, executive director of LLC. “It is necessary that we work to support local, provincial, and First Nations governments in their quest to build water-related adaptation strategies in our communities. Water is the underpinning of local economies and is essential to the well-being of our communities and the healthy water-based ecosystems that we all depend on.”

Current and future water allocation decisions will need to be science-driven and data-informed while incorporating Traditional Knowledge. This project will help provide the training, skills, and tools necessary to support adaptive and mitigative watershed management by decision makers as the region’s lakes, streams, rivers, wetlands, groundwater, and glaciers continue to be climate-impacted.

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LLC will train people to professionally monitor and collect data for regional water data-deficit areas. To house all the water-related data (past, current, and future) collected in the Canadian Columbia Basin, LLC has developed the Columbia Basin Water Hub, an open-source database that officially launched in March 2020. LLC is also facilitating the development of a Water Monitoring Framework based on a water-balance approach to help build a Priory Monitoring Matrix for the region’s 10 sub-watersheds.

“In navigating this era’s climate crisis and biodiversity crisis, it is essential to shift paradigms and collaborate with all hands-on deck,” said Hartwig. “The HWI fund is a good start to allow us to do just that. It is also a great opportunity to create jobs by retraining young people from other sectors impacted by COVID-19. We are providing impactful, meaningful, and empowering jobs while working in tandem to achieve government goals and outcomes.”

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