Youth Water Leaders Program

Open to youth aged 17 – 25, the Youth Water Leaders Program will provide participants with the skills and tools necessary to identify and propose solutions to environmental issues within the Ottawa River watershed, while offering them hands-on opportunities to learn about the river and make a difference in their communities.

The program:

Solving complex water issues in the Ottawa River watershed can only come from a strong water movement: citizens who understand, steward and defend our most precious resource. Ottawa Riverkeeper wants to empower the youth of today to become water leaders! They will be the driving forces in their communities, working to protect the Ottawa River watershed and ensuring a swimmable, drinkable and fishable future for all. With this in mind, Ottawa Riverkeeper has created The Youth Water Leaders Program!

Open to youth aged 17 – 25 who are interested in developing a stronger understanding of environmental water protection and have a passion for making a difference in their communities, the Youth Water Leaders Program provides participants with the skills and tools necessary to identify and propose solutions to environmental issues within the Ottawa River watershed. Following a six module program, participants work with experts in the fields of communication, science, outreach and volunteering to co-design and carry out meaningful service projects addressing environmental water challenges in their communities.

Over a 3 to 6-month period, participants gain more than 120 volunteer hours through mentorship workshops and the completion of their co-designed volunteer projects. They get to know the watershed and learn about the different policies, regulations and authorities governing it. Participants also get to experience the Ottawa River firsthand as part of a paddle expedition they will help plan!

Upon completion of the program, participants will have developed the research, organizational and leadership skills that will serve them well in pursuing the future career of their choice, while making invaluable connections and helping to improve the health of the Ottawa River watershed.

6 Qualities of a Water Leader

How to apply:

Ottawa Riverkeeper operates throughout the Ottawa River watershed, on the Quebec and Ontario sides of the river, and in both French and English. We are dedicated to working with youth from the diverse communities within this region. We encourage youth from the Ottawa River watershed who live outside the National Capital Region to apply.

If you are interested in participating in the Youth Water Leaders Program, please apply using this online form, or contact Naomi Sarazin at for more information.

Latest news:

  • February 18th, 2020: Cohort 1Youth Water Leaders co-created a Species-at-Risk Memory Game that is now available in our Learning Library. Did you know you can borrow resources from our Learning Library?
  • January 29th, 2020: The Youth Water Leaders visited Dr. Jesse Vermaire’s lab at Carleton University and learned about his research on microplastic pollution, and how our Riverwatchers, the world’s largest network of citizen scientists sampling microplastics in freshwater, have been central to this project. 
  • January 25th, 2020: The Youth Water Leaders went to the Maniwaki Native Friendship Centre, an hour and a half north of Ottawa, to participate in a one-day youth exchange with youth from Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg and Algonquins of Barriere Lake. Mike Diabo, who is an Indigenous Science Teacher, shared the Algonquin Pike Head Teachings and led the youth through a Climate Change lab. Anna Cote, founder and head chef at The Birch Bite, showed the youth how to clean and cook fish, sharing the nutritional value of traditional food sources.
  • January 18th, 2020: Youth from the Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn First Nation joined our Youth Water Leaders at the Àbadakone Continuous Fire exhibit at the National Gallery of Canada and worked on creating their own artistic prints that reflected imagery within the watershed. 
  • January 17th, 2020: Chelsea Youth joined our Youth Water Leaders for a beaded pendant Her Braids workshop to learn about the importance of clean drinking water in First Nations communities.
  • December 7th, 2019: Rachel Balderson, a Cohort 1 Youth Water Leader, was mentored by Cathy Rogers, a Riverwatcher, to publish a blog post. The blog is about the Youth Water Leaders attending the annual National Capital Commission’s Archaeological Dig this summer.
  • November 19th to 23rd, 2019: The Youth Water Leaders co-created and released a social media campaign on 5 Easy Ways to Protect Your Local Waterways.
  • November 16th, 2019: Although the snow came early in November, when the youth had planned a fall shoreline cleanup, they still went to Wakefield to do a mini-cleanup around town. They also learned how to take water quality samples and analyzed them in our citizens science lab. 
  • November 13th & 14th, 2019: The Youth Water Leaders shared their watermark stories as part of the Watermark Project.
  • November 1st, 2019: We kicked-off the second cohort of Youth Water Leaders Program with a meeting at the Ottawa Riverkeeper office. The youth are preparing to share their Watermarks; developing ideas for their service projects; and brainstorming ideas for upcoming educational workshops.
  • October 4th to 6th, 2019: Youth Water Leaders participated in a rafting expedition on the Gatineau River, led by Boreal River Adventures. Participants learned leadership, teamwork, and wilderness skills, as well as more on the ecology of the watershed. A First Nation member of Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg joined the youth to share the history of the area and its significance to the Algonquin people.
  • September 30th, 2019: Recruitment for the second cohort of the Youth Water Leaders Program ends. The first cohort of youth have been so engaged that they will continue to be a part of the program alongside the second cohort!
  • August 30th, 2019: Youth Water Leaders met with our Water Quality Intern to learn about Ottawa Riverkeeper’s recreational water quality testing program. The youth got a chance to collect water samples, process them, and perform an analysis to determine if E.coli was present!
  • July 12th to 14th, 2019: Youth Water Leaders visited OWL Rafting where they did some whitewater rafting, worked on their canoeing and kayaking skills and met with some local Riverwatchers to learn more about issues affecting the Ottawa River.
  • June 29th, 2019: Youth Water Leaders participated in Ecology Ottawa’s Green Infrastructure event at Britannia Park where they shared information about green infrastructure techniques we can all do to protect the Ottawa River.
  • June 15th, 2019: Some Youth Water Leaders met at Parc Moussette for our Beach Cleanup and to learn more about the recreational water quality monitoring that Ottawa Riverkeeper does throughout the summer in support of Swim Guide.
  • May 11th, 2019: The Youth Water Leaders had their second meeting, where they brainstormed project ideas. They’re hoping to engage with the watershed community, showing simple things people can do in their daily lives to protect the river and highlighting some of our dedicated Riverwatchers and volunteers who are already doing the work of a water leader!
  • March 30th, 2019: A group of 8 young people gathered at the Ottawa Riverkeeper office to kick-off the Youth Water Leaders Program!