Canada has more than its fair share of fresh water. Its 36 million souls — about 0.5% of the world’s population — claim title to approximately 20% of the planet’s total supply of drinkable water.
Though much of that water is trapped in deep aquifers or located in the country’s far north, beyond the reach of its water distribution infrastructure, there’s still plenty of clean, clear water to go around in Canada.
At least, for now. Despite its vast swathes of near-uninhabited land and relatively progressive environmental policies, Canada faces numerous threats to its water quality.
Some aren’t unique to Canada: climate change, agricultural pollution, stormwater runoff. Others have sui generis causes best addressed locally.
These six organizations are each doing their part to keep Canada’s surface and groundwater clean for generations to come. Here’s what you need to know about each.
1. Council of Canadians
The Council of Canadians takes a hard-line approach to water security in Canada. The organization builds its programming around the belief that “water [is] part of a shared commons” that “must be protected from privatization, pollution, and bulk exports.”
Much of the Council’s work focuses on the Great Lakes watershed, Canada’s largest store of surface freshwater. But its projects extend from one coast to another, from hydroelectric dams in British Columbia to estuaries in the Canadian Maritimes. The Council even engages in international work with groups in the U.S. border state of Michigan.
2. Ducks Unlimited Canada
Ducks Unlimited Canada has spent the past three-quarters of a century fighting for clean surface water across the Great White North. Its purview is diverse: Active include algae mitigation in prairie marshland, preservation of boreal forest wetlands, invasive species mitigation in the heavily industrialized Great Lakes and along the St. Lawrence Seaway, and coastal wetland conservation near active fisheries.
3. Lake Winnipeg Foundation
Manitoba is ground zero for water conservation in Canada. The vast Red River basin collects agricultural runoff from the factory farms of the U.S. Midwest and Manitoba’s fertile prairies — then discharges it into Lake Winnipeg, which regularly makes appearances on lists of North America’s most impaired watersheds.
“Lake Winnipeg faces a multitude of threats, including blue-green algae, agricultural pollution, and invasive species,” says area resident and business owner David Janeson. “All are exacerbated by climate change.”
Fortunately, multiple organizations are doing something about it. The Lake Winnipeg Foundation is among the most ambitious — it’s doing more than any other entity to research the lake’s microplastics problem and develop educational curricula around freshwater conservation.
4. World Wildlife Fund Canada
WWF Canada has an ambitious goal: “to see all of Canada’s waters in good condition by 2025.”
As one of the few NGOs with the necessary resources, WWF Canada has taken the lead on directing a massive field operation to establish a countrywide water quality baseline. If all goes well, the results will serve as a roadmap for decades of freshwater conservation work.
5. Royal Bank of Canada
Anyone who says capital is indifferent to environmental issues probably hasn’t heard of Royal Bank of Canada’s Blue Water Project, a $50 million, 10-year venture devoted to making Canada’s waters cleaner and safer for all. Whether RBC is doing this out of the goodness of its heart or a more pragmatic recognition that for-profit companies need happy, healthy customers are beside the point.
6. Federation of Canadian Municipalities
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Green Municipal Fund is one of the country’s most active environmental grantmaking groups. If you’re a Canadian individual or company with a bright idea for water conservation, stormwater management and quality, wastewater mitigation, or septic systems, FCM can probably help.
Know of another organization helping to improve Canadian water quality? Please share in the comments section.