Submitted by Living Lakes Canada
Kat Hartwig of Brisco is the recipient of two BC Achievement awards, which were presented to her during a formal ceremony held at Government House in Victoria on May 10.
As the founder and executive director of the Nelson-based water stewardship organization Living Lakes Canada, Hartwig is one of 20 individuals across the province to be recognized with a 2023 Community Award, and is the sole recipient of the distinguished Mitchell Award.
“I am grateful to be here, and it is a distinct privilege to speak on behalf of my fellow award recipients whose stories and achievements are both uplifting and inspiring,” said Hartwig in her address to an audience that included the Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia. “I have been privileged enough to find a path of work in environmental and water stewardship. This work has been deeply rewarding despite the overwhelming sense of urgency to address the climate and the biodiversity crises we have put ourselves in.”
The annual BC Achievement Community Awards recognize extraordinary British Columbians who build better, stronger and more resilient communities. The Mitchell Award of Distinction recognizes one individual in particular who demonstrates “an unwavering commitment to elevating people around them.” Hartwig’s lifelong work in environmental conservation, and her selfless leadership style that empowers others to lead and excel, was the rationale provided by the BC Achievement Foundation for singling out Hartwig as this year’s Mitchell Award designate.
Since founding Living Lakes Canada in 2010, Hartwig has impacted countless communities across the Columbia Basin and Canada. Under her leadership, Living Lakes Canada has created award-winning water stewardship programs, helped pilot new water monitoring technologies, developed a suite of new water monitoring frameworks to track climate impacts on freshwater sources, updated federal lake survey protocols, and played a role in guiding both provincial and federal policies around freshwater protection.
Throughout her paradigm-shifting approach to water management, Hartwig has tirelessly advocated for the inclusion and leadership of Indigenous voices and the valuing of Indigenous knowledge in water policy and science. In the Columbia Basin alone, partnerships with local First Nations have been established across all Living Lakes Canada programs offered in the region, from water data sharing agreements vis a vis the Columbia Basin Water Hub, to the selection of water monitoring sites, to helping fund water monitoring equipment.
In her former position as part of the leadership team for the conservation organization Wildsight, Hartwig was one of the initiators of the internationally renowned Jumbo Wild campaign to protect Jumbo Valley, a key grizzly bear and wildlife corridor located in the Purcell Mountain Range.
“Kat recognizes that global water challenges caused by climate change need to be addressed at a local community level. She’s a dedicated leader and change-maker on international, national and regional environmental advocacy issues, and a passionate and empowering role model for young people, particularly women, in the water sector,” said Living Lakes Canada team member, Claire Pollock-Hall.
Living Lakes Canada’s regional programs have tripled water monitoring in the region since 2021 in order to gather the data needed to help communities and the ecosystems they rely on adapt to a changing water cycle. Recognizing the Columbia Basin’s freshwater sources are threatened by climate change (e.g. diminishing glaciers, record-breaking summer temperatures, longer dry periods), Hartwig and the Living Lakes Canada team are addressing the water data deficit identified in a series of reports since 2006.
Examples include the large-scale Columbia Basin Water Monitoring Framework project, which completed a round of East and West Kootenay public meetings earlier this year to gather local community water concerns; the High Elevation Monitoring program, which tracks climate impacts on remote creeks and lakes; and the Groundwater Program, which now monitors 32 observation wells across the Columbia Basin complementing the seven wells in the provincial groundwater network.
Salmo resident Gerry Nellestijn, founder of the Salmo Watershed Streamkeepers Society, was also recognized with a 2023 BC Achievement Community Award.
For more information on the BC Achievement awards, visit www.bcachievement.com.