WWF-Canada Blog:
Freshwater


WWF and the Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG)

Originally published on freshwateralliance.ca 

This fall at the Living Waters Rally (Oct 3-6 in Ottawa/Gatineau), I will be joining more than a hundred other passionate individuals as we work to understand and tackle the challenges of managing Canada’s water challenges.

Waterfall, Anticosti Island, Vaureal, Quebec, Canada. © Greg STOTT / WWF-Canada

Waterfall, Anticosti Island, Vaureal, Quebec, Canada. © Greg STOTT / WWF-Canada

This year, we’re introducing a big hairy audacious goal (the BHAG). MEC Community Program Manager Andrew Stegemann and Tony Maas, project lead for Our Living Waters, have both described recently on the Canadian Freshwater Alliance blog how Canadians can work together to a big goal: All waters in Canada in good ecological health by 2025. At WWF-Canada, as a conservation science-based organization, we’ve really been grappling with two questions: How healthy are Canada’s waters? And what does good ecological health actually mean?

We’ve learned a lot over a few years of tackling these questions. First, Canada needs to stop gambling with our water health and start measuring it. Nationally, without an information baseline, we have no way to understand the impacts and trade-offs of resource development decisions. Without a national standard of “good water health,” we have no way to measure the progress of local restoration projects. And without consistent metrics, we have no way to judge whether all of the water legal reforms currently happening across this country will be effective.

A stream flowing through temperate rainforest in Northwest British Columbia, Canada. © Mike Ambach / WWF-Canada

A stream flowing through temperate rainforest in Northwest British Columbia, Canada. © Mike Ambach / WWF-Canada

So what’s the hard truth about the conditions of our waters?  We don’t actually know the answer. That’s not because people don’t care. To the contrary, watershed groups and citizens from coast to coast have been pushing local action for years. Despite all that energetic effort, the overall picture of our national water health remains surprisingly opaque because we have no consistent way to measure it. In a country where water is one of our most valued—and potentially coveted—natural endowments, that leaves us dangerously vulnerable.

Fortunately citizens, organizations and companies are starting to recognize the need for a national water health standard to drive change in the rivers and lakes they care about. They believe this information is a critical complement to in-depth local assessments. And they know that without it, there will always be a limit to the effectiveness of local efforts because water—by its very nature—flows downstream, across and beyond political borders. WWF-Canada has created the freshwater health assessment as part of the solution, but there is more.

Terrace Bay under cloudy skies, Lake Superior, Ontario, Canada. © GaryAndJoanieMcGuffin.com / WWF-Canada

Terrace Bay under cloudy skies, Lake Superior, Ontario, Canada. © GaryAndJoanieMcGuffin.com / WWF-Canada

That’s why the Canadian Freshwater Alliance is hosting a strategic dialogue on Pooling our Water Knowledge as part of the program at the Living Waters Rally. Please join me to piece together an approach on how we can most effectively understand our water wealth nationally.