Columbia Valley resident and Living Lakes Canada director Kat Hartwig was in Banff last week, participating in the first-ever national dialogue on community-based water monitoring.
The dialogue came during the 36th annual North American Lake Management Society Symposium on November1st and where Hartwig delivered an workshop entitled Building Bridges: Citizens, Science and Policy.
“It was about looking at the place of community-based water quality monitoring initiatives across the country,determining what the challenges are and how they can be met,” Hartwig told The Echo. “It went quite well.”
She added it was exciting to see some of the community-based water monitoring program running south of the border, adding there were also some scientists present who work closely with the White House.
“They are quite a ways ahead of us (Canadians) in terms of using citizen scientists,” said Hartwig, adding doing so is not only cost effective, but is also a great way to get local people engaged with their natural environment.
“It (the workshop) was a pretty big deal. We want to make sure we get this (citizen-led water monitoring) right,because it will help us to understand the way climate change is affecting our hydrological systems. As we intensify our water use and continue to experience flood and drought regimes, we really do need all hands on deck,” said said.
Some of the challenges facing community water monitoring discussed during the workshop include figuring out why monitoring needs to happen; what exactly is being measured; what the parameters should be; what appropriate protocol is; where data gets stored; who interprets it; whether or not it is publicly acceptable; and how it reaches decision makers.
“Another challenge is, if you have citizen scientists, you want to make sure the work they do and the data they collect is going to be implemented into a policy, and not just sitting on a shelf collecting dust, so how do you go about that?” Hartwig asked.
At need for citizen water scientist is particularly acute at the moment, she added.
“We’re data deficient. There’s so much we don’t know, and if we don’t have information, how can we make decisions?” she asked. “Climate change will impact the way we make decision about water. We’re just having the dialogue now in terms of helping government understand the legitimacy of community-based, citizen-led water monitoring. We are shifting paradigms in how we manage water.”
Ms. Hartwig said that there are already several examples of successful community-based water monitoring initiatives in the Columbia Basin, including the Lake WIndermere Ambassadors here in the Upper ColumbiaValley, as well as Friends of Kootenay Lake and a basin-wide citizen groundwater monitoring project led byLiving Lakes Canada.
For more information on the workshop see http://www.wwf.ca/newsroom/?uNewsID=22701. For more info onLiving Lakes Canada visit http://wildsight.ca/programs/livinglakescanada/.