On May 29th and 30th more than 250 people from Ontario and Quebec came together to take action on regional water protection at Ottawa Riverkeeper’s biggest event ever; AquaHacking – Ottawa River Summit 2015. It was a great day for Ottawa Riverkeeper, the Ottawa River and Canada.
Uniting the Watershed
For much of its path, the Ottawa River forms the boundary between Ontario and Quebec and two-thirds of the vast watershed lies within Quebec. Over the past two years Ottawa Riverkeeper has been working very closely with the de Gaspé Beaubien Foundation to bring the people of Ontario and Quebec together to address important water protection challenges facing our communities. It is obvious that we must work together to protect our shared river. Our first strategic move as new partners was to hire Adèle Michon who now leads Ottawa Riverkeeper’s work to build awareness and partnerships in Quebec.
AquaHacking – Ottawa River Summit was a great example of the progress we have made with this extraordinary Family Foundation who participates actively in the projects they fund. We were thrilled to have representation from diverse sectors and communities throughout the watershed. At least half of the participants were from Quebec and in the words of Barry Stemshorn, Director of Ottawa Riverkeeper “the meeting was exemplary in the use of English and French to truly allow everyone to participate fully their language of choice”.
Participants took time to envision the Ottawa River Watershed at its best and share ideas for how we can work across “silos” in a more integrated and cooperative manner to protect and restore our rivers.
Joint Committee on Water Management
A highlight of the event and testimony to the “behind the scenes” work leading up to the Ottawa River Summit was an announcement from the Honourable David Heurtel, Quebec Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and the Fight Against Climate Change and the Honourable Glen Murray, Ontario Minister of Environment and Climate Change. The Ministers joined us at the Summit and announced the creation of a joint Ontario-Quebec Committee on Water Management to facilitate co-operation and information sharing between Québec and Ontario on a wide range of water management issues.
Ottawa River Watershed Declaration
Ottawa Riverkeeper will follow up with the Summit Advisory Committee and other interested stakeholders to bring forward a proposal for improved watershed governance in the Ottawa River Watershed. We will be working from the action agenda brought forward at the Summit via the Gatineau Declaration – recently renamed The Ottawa River Watershed Declaration.
The Declaration was presented at the Summit and championed by Advisory Committee members, John Karau (representing Conservation Authorities) and David Pharand (Mayor, Duhamel). These articulate leaders encouraged others to sign the declaration and acknowledge our shared responsibility to preserve the biodiversity, the quality of our water and the well-being of communities within the Ottawa River Watershed. At the Summit, big city Mayors Jim Watson and Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin signed the Declaration and acknowledged the important role their cities have to protect and celebrate the Ottawa River.
Participants of AquaHacking – Ottawa River Summit were very interested to see the results from the teams of hardworking and talented hackers. With the support of our partner IBM, ten teams had been working for several months on projects designed to solve water protection challenges identified by communities throughout the watershed. The winning teams River Rangers and My River/Ma Rivière built applications to crowd-source data and make it easy to report pollution and upload observations or water quality data from a smart phone. The rising star award went to Aqua Radar who visualized water level data for the Ottawa River and team Contour came in third place while also receiving the Public’s choice award. You can learn more about the winning teams online.
The announcement of a joint committee on water management for Ontario and Quebec and the Ottawa River Watershed Declaration are incredibly important for our river and we celebrate the fact that AquaHacking – Ottawa River Summit was instrumental to build momentum and increase awareness. Even though the big event has now come and gone, our work is far from over and we don’t want to lose this momentum! At the Summit we received a river of commitments from participants and even if you couldn’t be there, we still need your pledge too – it’s not too late to sign the Ottawa River Watershed Declaration!
We would like to sincerely thank everyone who assisted in breathing life into AquaHacking 2015 – Ottawa River Summit. It would not have been possible without everyone involved, particularly our partner, the de Gaspé Beaubien Foundation. You can learn more about this extraordinary family and their commitment to give back to Canada in Roy McGregor’s article for the Globe and Mail.
As the voice of the Ottawa River, we thank you for the hope of a sustainable, healthy future and we look forward to next steps. To quote famous scientist Thomas Edison: “Vision without execution is hallucination.”
Meredith Brown on behalf of the Ottawa Riverkeeper team