Valley resident Kat Hartwig was in Ottawa earlier this month representing the Living Lakes Canada team at the Living Waters Rally, a conference that in Hartwig’s opinion highlighted the importance of the water stewardship work done here, particularly by the Lake Windermere Ambassadors.

“We are definitely leading the emerging trend of communities engaging more actively with the health of their watersheds,” said Hartwig in a press release. “We are blessed in the Columbia Basin to have some of the world’s most pristine waters and thus a global obligation to protect them and restore them.”

The rally, which ran from Friday, October 3rd to Monday, October 6th, attracted 110 delegates representing different groups from across Canada to discuss watershed issues.

“It was mostly a way to connect various watershed groups from across the country to share information about what they’re doing,” Hartwig told The Echo. “There was a lot of talk about citizen-base science and an exchange of some of the challenges and solutions it entails.”

The Lake Windermere Ambassadors’ Lake Windermere project, which grew out of a 2004 conference held at Fairmont Hot Springs, has become a model for watershed management not  only for other lakes and rivers in the Columbia Basin, but also for bodies of water across the country, including Lake Winnipeg and Lake Mackenzie, said Hartwig. The key traits of the Lake Windermere project that others wish to emulate are citizen-based science and multi-sector community engagement, according to Hartwig.

“There was consensus (when the Lake Windermere project started) that if we were serious about protecting the health of our water, it needed to be a collaborative approach, not just something done by an environmental group,” she said, adding that meant including local business groups, societies, individual businesses and other groups.

Watershed-wide management — as opposed to simply managing a single lake or a single river — was another major topic of discussion at the rally, according to Hartwig.

“It (watershed-wide management) seems to be the growing trend, not just in Canada, but really around the world,” she said.

The Living Waters Rally is held every two years. Living Lakes Canada is a nongovernmental organization that aims to foster citizen-based stewardship of the country lakes, wetlands and watersheds.