What does it mean to be a Water Leader?

Third in our Riverkeeper announcement series, this blog takes a look at Water Leaders: what qualities do they share, and what does it mean to be one?

You have been waiting a long time for this… We are now ready to share with you the identity of our new Riverkeeper! To set the stage for this exciting announcement, we want to explain how this unique position allows our organization to play a leading role in the protection and promotion of our amazing watershed. So stay tuned and read on. The big reveal is just around the bend!

Water Leaders are those who stand up for the protection of their waterways, and work to promote the ecological health of local rivers, lakes, bays, and more. True Water Leaders don’t work alone, but instead use their energy, passion and commitment to spur others to action in their communities. 

At Ottawa Riverkeeper, we celebrate Water Leaders in multiple ways. Each year at our Gala we give out our Water Leaders award to individuals or groups who have embodied the qualities of a Water Leader. We also run a Youth Water Leader Program, where we seek to empower young people from across the watershed to become the Water Leaders of the next generation. This program has had one successful cohort already, and we are recruiting for our second one!

Some of our first cohort of Youth Water Leaders learning about microplastic sampling from our Riverwatchers.

Trevor Cunningham accepting a Water Leader award at the 2019 Gala, on behalf of River Surf Ottawa-Gatineau.

Jimmy Vigneux accepting a Water Leader award at the 2019 Gala, on behalf of himself and Lyne Morissette, for their work starting Mission 100 Tonnes.

But what are the qualities of a great Water Leader? 

The first is to have a personal connection to water, one that you instantly know and is the foundation for your passion and commitment. We call these stories Watermarks.

The second is to be informed; to know your watershed and what it contains. Where does the water come from, where does it flow? What kind of wildlife lives in the area? What threatens your watershed?

Third is to get out there! It is hard to protect water if you never interact with it! Get out on the water and learn what it is like to swim, drink and fish in your watershed!

Fourth: know the rules. To really fight for your watershed, you need to know which laws and regulations govern the lakes, rivers and drinking water in your area.

Once you know your watershed, the fifth quality to to participate. This involves being an advocate for your watershed, and being part of its stewardship.

Finally, the sixth quality is to make a commitment. Find a job where you can make a difference, volunteer your time, inspire others or generally take action and dedicate yourself to protecting water!

These are the qualities that embody a great Water Leader, and these are qualities that are clear in your new Riverkeeper. Stay tuned to find out who it is!