Community-Based Water Monitoring: Bridging Citizens and Decision Makers

Community-Based Water Monitoring: Bridging Citizens and Decision Makers

Lee-Anne Walker and Chris Strashok
Published January 27, 2010

Case Summary

Water quality and quantity is critical to every aspect of life. Monitoring our water supply and its health is of concern to many Canadian communities. Citizen groups in the Columbia Basin, in southeast British Columbia, Canada, are actively gathering water data and monitoring the health of local rivers and streams. These watershed groups are forging a new governance model for citizens to better understand their watersheds and use this knowledge to take a more active role in the decision-making process to ensure water sustainability in their communities. Community-based water monitoring (CBWM) is one activity that can be used to bridge citizens’ involvement with decision-makers in a partnership of shared responsibility for planning and managing a sustainable water system.

What is unclear is how do decision-makers perceive the efforts of these community-based water groups; are they valued, appreciated or respected?  Is there interest in sharing information between communities and decision-makers and a willingness to collaborate on decision-making? If so, where are the entry points in the water governance process for citizens to participate effectively?

Sustainable Development Characteristics

For the purpose of this research, it is assumed that water sustainability is achieved when there is a renewable and economical water supply, and human activities are environmentally benign to the water resource. To accomplish this, a series of value-based choices about water happens. Historically, all three levels of government, federal, provincial and municipal, are involved; hence, water governance is as complex and diverse as the geopolitical boundaries and governmental jurisdictions it crosses. With this government structure, fragmentation of water legislation, policies and practices occurs, creating challenges to meeting water sustainability goals. If goals are not met, the results can range from degraded water quality, exposure to waterborne diseases, as well as inadequate financial resources to resolve issues, and weak standards.

It is clear that water governance in the Columbia Basin, and elsewhere in Canada, can not be shaped by government agencies alone, but needs to include the cultural norms and values of the people who live and work in the region. Governments and community members are increasingly recognizing that non-government actors like citizens, non-government organizations, and business are essential to effective water management. Thus, the need for connection and collaboration between community-based organizations, like the ones found in the Columbia Basin, which are monitoring water quality, involved with water education and outreach, and restoration efforts, along with the decision-makers making and enforcing policy around water, is fundamental to sustainable community development.

Critical Success Factors

For a system to make the kind of transformation required to implement sustainable development, power and authority must be linked and distributed among the various stakeholders. By bridging the existing bonding social capital, a community can facilitate effective information generation-sharing, decision-making and accountability, and the distribution of resources and wealth (Doppelt, 2003). In the Columbia Basin, there is some evidence that this is being achieved and that effective bridging social capital between community water monitoring groups and decision-makers is being generated. Both the Lake Windermere Project and the Christina Lake Stewardship Society initiatives are examples of when groups are connected and the inclusion of multiple values, knowledge and interests of different stakeholders come together to create a co-management framework. With this framework, there is a space created that allows for sharing of knowledge, agreement on parameters for monitoring, and the publication and dissemination of knowledge to the wider community.

Community Contact Information

Lee-Anne Walker, M.A., B.A.
Fernie, British Columbia, Canada

What Worked?

The Lake Windermere Project (LWP) emulated a positive working relationship with the District of Invermere. Working together, LWP data was incorporated into the Lake Windermere Official Community Plan and guidance document for shoreline development. This group was also able to update the BC Ministry of Environment (MoE) water quality objectives with the district's support in the form of a boat, fuel, delivery and pick up service, access to water intakes, and in-kind office space.

Similarly, the Christina Lake Stewardship Society was able to build relationships and networks by coordinating an annual tour of the lake on a barge called the “Tintanic”. These tours brought together regional district directors, planning committee members, MoE representatives, and Selkirk College staff to discuss lake ecology, issues and joint concerns. These meetings enabled all of the individuals involved in water stewardship to understand that they all share the common goal of protecting water resources while building a foundation of trust and respect for each other.

What Didn’t Work?

This case study revealed four key areas where community-based action groups need to be more strategic. Managing and analysing the collected water data is difficult for both community groups and decision-makers. With each group working independently to collect their own data sets, there are few resources available to compile and analyse the data, keep the data current and disseminate the information to other decision-makers and communities. This reinforces the argument that community groups and decision-makers need to work in a partnership with shared responsibility for planning and managing a sustainable water system.

Local water management knowledge is also in jeopardy since few of the groups have viable succession plans to replace the current leadership. They are challenged to find volunteers, especially since the population is seasonal, and in some cases, many of the full-time residents have had to relocate due to increasing property values and taxation rates. Decision-makers have similar problems due to the nature of government, with a subsequent loss of continuity between citizen-based groups and the decision-makers.  With some rapid changes in civil servants, citizen-based groups have had to continuously re-establish their credibility and legitimacy to new staff.

There are various levels of trust and respect between community-based water groups and decision-makers. A lack of trust in the region can be traced back to past perceptions of one another, poor communication, and weak networks between the two groups. By allowing these perceptions to persist, relationships between these two working groups will languish limiting the available social capital needed to protect the region’s water systems. There are also various monitoring and reporting protocols used by both community groups and decisionmakers involved. This complicates the communication issues and networking capabilities between the different water monitoring groups, further eroding the much needed social capital to facilitate a new governance model.

Financial Costs and Funding Sources

From 2005 to 2009, the Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) provided $36,594.66 in funds to support the Columbia Basin Watershed Network and the water-monitoring pilot carried out by some of the community-based water groups. These funds were used to facilitate various symposiums that helped to connect organizations and build strong networks between citizen groups involved in water stewardship, restoration and planning activities (CBT website, 2009).

Government agencies have also provided year-end funding contributions, grants and assistance for accessing outside funding sources. They have also loaned equipment, provided less expensive access to lab services, printed brochures, provided office space, paid facilitators for joint meetings, provided in-kind expertise, as well as agency staff support. In-kind support, particularly expertise, including scientific, is often as valuable to community-based groups as financial support.

Research Analysis

This case study was drawn from interviews with eight community-based water groups and sixteen decision-makers to examine how citizen-generated data might be integrated into planning and decision-making for water sustainability in the Columbia Basin. Two distinct interview sets were conducted. They were structured by a set of predetermined open-ended conversations regarding water management, social capital and governance models. The key difference between the two groups is that one has legitimate power and authority directly over water, while the other has the capacity to make personal decisions, but also wishes to influence long-term, community-based water planning and management leading toward sustainability. The intent was to learn about how community-based water monitoring can be used to bridge citizens’ involvement with decision-makers in a partnership of shared responsibility for planning and managing a sustainable water system.

Detailed Background Case Description

Water is intrinsic to sustainable community development, the human imperative of the 21st century (Dale, 2001). Sustainable development involves choices by people of what to sustain (nature, resources, cultures) and what is to be developed (people, economy, society) (Kates et al, 2001). It is a series of value-based choices, in this case placed on water.  Community-based water groups are investing countless hours and personal resources to make the following activities happen in this region through the following activities that include:

·        bringing in grant dollars into the community to do restoration activities that employ local individuals and students;

·        catalysts for community involvement and engagement which have changed community behaviour e.g. through Stewardship Centres;

·        participating in fish surveys;

·        offering living laboratories outside for water education/community awareness and conservation programs;

·        participating in processes resulting in improved industrial models and standards;

·        sponsoring community stream and lake clean ups and celebrating water stewardship events;

·        members of local Advisory Planning Council for Official Community Plans and affect operations e.g. cosmetic bylaws, setbacks for snow removal, divert compostable waste from landfill;

·        participating in watershed planning and implementation strategy;

·        acting as watchdogs advocating for compliance of legislation, socially unacceptable harm to water, receive anonymous tips from residents, advocate for government to clean up abandoned mine sites and monitor mine decommissioning;

·        managing long term water monitoring projects that produce enough data to show trends to base decision making judgements;

·        riparian restoration and tree planting;

·        producing annual reports on water results;

·        reviewing permit applications for development, variance applications, foreshore alterations and monitor tenures e.g. marina, forest practices;

·        producing community brochures and signs; and,

·        operating a Stewardship Centre providing a central location for dissemination of information and a staffed phone.

This monitoring also increases citizen appreciation, understanding of the issues and value for the resource, and community literacy around a critical resource. Understanding of water science, governance frameworks, and the required sustainability solutions has resulted in a community of people formulating a vision for the future and a desire to take action towards more proactive planning and managing for a sustainable water future. In addition, decision-makers in the ColumbiaBasin see value in getting citizens involved, creating a virtuous feedback cycle.


Good water governance in the Columbia Basin will be shaped by the cultural norms and values of the people who live and work there. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP, 1997) lists five characteristics of good governance that can be applied to water governance:

 UNDP Five Good Governance Principles

The five good governance principles

The UNDP Principles on which they are based:

1.   Legitimacy and Voice


Participation providing all people with a voice in decision-making

Consensus orientation mediating differing interests on what is in the best interest of the whole, suggesting appropriate policies and procedures.

2.   Direction


Strategic vision – leaders and the public have a broad and long-term perspective on good governance and human development, and what is needed for such development, including an understanding of the historical, cultural and social complexities in which that perspective is grounded.

3.   Performance


Responsiveness of institutions and processes to stakeholders.

Effectiveness and Efficiency where processes and institutions produce results that meet needs while making the best use of resources

4.   Accountability


Accountability of decision makers to public and stakeholders

Transparency built on the free flow of information

5.   Fairness


Equity for all men and women to have opportunities to become involved in a process oriented toward consensus where differing interests are mediated to reach a broad consensus on what is in the general interest

 These five principles recognize that instead of the old-style patriarchal, hierarchical approaches, sustainable governance sees all members, both internal to the organization and external stakeholders, as important parts of an interdependent, interactive system. To bridge the gap between interested citizens who want to be stewards of water with decision-makers challenged to manage the resource in a fragmented, cumbersome system, good governance will require active public involvement and transparency (Brandes and Nowlan, 2008). Water sustainability requires a completely new perspective inspired by the hydrological cycle itself.  We need to change our current straight-line ‘take-make-waste’ production to a circular ‘borrow-use-return’ system (Doppelt, 2003). 

Where Community-based Science fits in Sustainable Water Governance

Water governance is as complex and diverse as the geopolitical boundaries and governmental jurisdictions it crosses. Decision-making about water happens on many levels, from the terms and conditions of international water treaties to daily personal use, some being wasteful, others more sustainable. One of the greatest challenges in water governance is that the governments making decisions about the use and management of water simply cannot do everything, especially in times of shrinking financial resources. At best, citizen groups have the capacity to deal with their specific watersheds breaking off manageable pieces of work for themselves. In contrast, decision-makers have dozens of sub-watersheds under their area of responsibility. Presently, there is no definition or defining boundary about the scope of the watershed for the optimal scale in which water planning and management should occur.

Consequently, governments are increasingly recognizing that non-government actors like citizens, non-government organizations, and business are essential to effective water management, and value their services. Government, however, needs to go beyond the obvious tools of regulation, land purchase into protected areas and command and control strategies, to develop effective ways of listening, understanding, and interacting with interested communities of stakeholders leading to an integrated decision-making framework for sustainable water management.  New frameworks will need to work across spatial and social scales, link broad global concerns with local needs and development priorities, evolve and adapt based on social learning in order to cope with ecological and social complexities, be flexible and facilitating, and demonstrate concern for both social and environmental justice (Brown, 2003). Ultimately success in the human dimensions of watershed management relies on the dynamic interface between substantive water information, a clear, open, transparent and inclusive decision-making process, and strong networked relationships between formal and informal organizations founded on trust and credibility.

The relationship between decision-makers and community groups needs to be enhanced to formulate an effective water management plan in this area and elsewhere in Canada. Both community groups and decision-makers in the Columbia Basin observed conditions, which enabled this network of social capital to grow, and obstacles to strengthening relationships and integrating the work of community-based monitoring groups and decisions on the management of the resource.

Enabling conditions consisted of:

·     working together to share information/resources, training and other collaborative efforts;

·     actively inviting community groups to provide input into the planning process;

·     referring other agencies to community-generated data;

·     integrated approach to watershed monitoring and data management;

·     community understanding of the problem and targeted efforts in the right location; and,

·     channelling and acknowledging the dedication of citizen volunteers.

Some of the obstacles were: 

·      citizen access to government data denied;

·      lack of openness and willingness to deal with the citizen group;

·      identifying the ‘right’ people at the table for dialogue to be productive;

·      historical pattern of not involving community in the decision making process;

·      community groups are seen as partisan and obstruct development and are reactive; and,

·      conflicting or hidden agendas between the decision-makers and citizen-based groups.

The data revealed that there are often conflicting priorities between citizen-based monitoring groups and traditional decision-makers. Citizens are concerned with water quality, quantity and the relationship between healthy water and healthy communities. Decision-makers are concerned with the lack of integrated management, lack of historical data to guide future decisions and the decline in available government human and financial resources. These differing priorities have ultimately led to differing visions and indicators. Community groups want to use a holistic approach to protect water quality and quantity since healthy aquatic ecosystems are a large of part of water sustainability. Decision-makers, on the other hand, are mandated to see water users comply with laws, regulations, permits and licenses, and balance competing interests with societal objectives while making sure drinking water is safe, clean and reliable. Clearly, integration of these perspectives would lead to a more sustainable water management system in the long-term.

In spite of these differences, both groups see the current government model as an issue and community-based science is part of a growing trend reversing the age old reductionist view to a systems view of the world reintegrating science with society and the human experience (Bradshaw & Bekoff, 2001). This new governance model integrates social and biophysical sciences of the interactions between humans and their environment with the complexity of societal processes and relationships (Bradshaw & Bekoff, 2001). Community-based water groups are involved in what is referred to as civil, participatory, citizen, stakeholder, or democratic science (Backstrand, 2003), which denotes a wider vision of science that is developed and enacted by the citizens, as well as by conventional scientific collection, data gathering and monitoring. Shrinking financial resources have seriously eroded the ability of governments to act alone, thus, arguing for this new model of governance based on citizen-based science working in intimate partnership with government scientists.

To balance the three imperatives for water sustainability (human health, environmental integrity and economic prosperity valued by the interviewees) requires both political and personal will and vision from both decision-makers and citizens. Legislation and traditional water planning and management strategies appear to be ill-equipped to deal with the water challenges ahead. The citizens in this case study were willing and able to participate actively to shape a water sustainable future with a high degree of volunteer capacity; in fact, they are vital to achieving this desired future state.

Strategic Questions

  1. What are the entry points in formal government decision-making for citizens to participate effectively in other communities?
  2. What are some the governance challenges associated with this resource?
  3. Besides integration and coordination with formal government decision-making, what else is needed for a community-based monitoring program to be effective?
  4. What are the benefits to government of this new governance model. What are the costs?
  5. What are some of the ways that social capital can be integrated with traditional scientific approaches to expand the traditional science-based model?
  6. How can governments honour volunteer capital and ideally, contribute to enhanced local social capital?

Resources and References

Backstrand, K. (2003). Civic science for sustainability: reframing the role of experts, policy-makers and citizens in environmental governance. Global Environmental Politics, 3(4), 24-41.

Bradshaw, G. & M. Bekoff. (2001). Ecology and social responsibility: the re-embodiment of science. TRENDS in Ecology & Evolution 16(8), 460-465

Brandes, O. & L. Nowlan. (2008). Water and the new business-as-usual in B.C. Victoria Times Colonist. Retrieved April 27, 2009 from

Brown, K. (2003). Three challenges for a real people-centered conservation. Global Ecology & Biogeography 12, 89-92.

Columbia Basin Trust Watershed Network website. Retrieved April 29, 2009 from

Dale, A. (2001). At the Edge: sustainable development in the 21st century. Vancouver:  UBC Press. 

Doppelt, B. (2003). Overcoming the seven sustainability blunders. The Systems Thinker 14(5), 1-7.

Kates, R et al. (2001). Sustainability science. Science, 292, 641-642.

United Nations Development Program. (1997). Governance for sustainable human development: a UNDP policy document. Retrieved May 6, 2009 from


The case study clearly shows the major hurdles that community-based groups face. The entry points for citizens in Canada to influence decisions are often difficult or impossible to engage in without the use of the legal system. There is more flexibility at the municipal scale of government but this is not comparable in all communities. To be truly on the path of sustainable development there is an outstanding requirement for the regulatory structure at the provincial level to include the social imperative (through the form of community based groups) into the decision making surrounding water resources.

The challenge of community based groups being met by regulatory agencies regarding the credibility of their efforts is also a factor that needs to reach a tipping point within the government agencies. These programs provide as much value on a social scale, let alone the scientific value they bring, to the decisons that are required to be made with regards to the sustainable development of water. For community-based programs efforts to be excluded based on the review and opinion of case by case examples needs to be changed and adopted into a regulatory framework to ensure inclusion in decision making processes.

In efforts to work collaboratively with communities government agencies need to provide more in-kind support towards the more science based actions that community-based groups perform. By assisting with the design of sampling systems, data collection training and performing database management and analysis the program will be more resilient and robust. Community based groups cannot all be relied on to provide their own scientific experts this should not be expected by the regulatory agencies they work with either.

Sustainable development outcomes of water resources will be directly affected by the social imperatives that are presented. System resiliency will be paramount in building long-term community based watershed monitoring programs that bridge the gaps between the scientific approach and the social values approach to assessing effects. Strong leadership in the community and in the government agencies will directly affect the program's ability to reach a state of resiliency that will accomodate change both in the short and long-terms. Following this notion it is critical that leadership is developed, maintained and passes on in both the community programs and in the government agencies. This will assist in overcoming several obstacles that face community based programs currently.

I’m commenting on this CBWM initiative from Ontario and as part of a Royal Roads University ENVR545 class expectation. This is marvelous bottom up ownership for the Columbia Basin.
I want to come at this from a long term vision and long term projection. The CBWM team needs to align itself with as many independent and non-partisan experts as it can. One way is with academic institution partners. This appears to have been done. The example I may use is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) started in 1988. This is a UN and member state organ but it is spearheaded by scientists rather than political appointees. Another example from Ontario is the NDACT group that defeated the Melancthon Mega Quarry Proposal in Ontario proposed by a multinational Boston company. The local NDACT drew attention and support from organizations like the Suzuki Foundation and Sierra Club. Seek out these credible types of partners.
In this vision for CBWM, I suggest seeking standing on water basin zoning hearings and committees as well as appointments on same. One example I might use is the ongoing opposition of the Ktunaxa Nation to the Jumbo Glacier Resort (KTUNAXA, 2012) which may have legal proceedings in Cranbrook, as well as public rallies. Opposition is on a spiritual and cultural basis for future generations. CBWM experts should seek out opportunities in these proceedings to be qualified as expert witnesses, not on indigenous culture, but on the related riparian sustainability. Build up individual and organizational credibility. Get recognized as experts in as many transcripts and minutes as you can. CBWM should also recruit indigenous members because of the priority status in land claims with the federal government. The most pressing issues for Canada today include indigenous land claims and northern sovereignty. Strategic indigenous representation on CBWM can help put you to the top of the food chain in dealing with the highest levels of government.
This Jumbo Glacier Resort dispute is important because the environment can be the most sensitive in these headwaters. Explore the research of Canadian Cleo Paskal at Chatham House. One of her main areas of research is how the energy infrastructure (Paskal, 2009) is in great peril from environmental change, and undesirable ancillary effects. One of the main utilizations of the Columbia is in this hydroelectric power. This research of hers on glaciers and rivers worldwide can provide newer data and projections for CBWM.
The other issue for CBWM is the international span of the Columbia. BC has only 15% of the Columbia drainage area (Davidson & Paisley, 2009, p. 4). CBWM has no doubt researched much of this but the only new point I want to make is in a long term vision that eventually with climate warming and depleted groundwater resources, the Columbia freshwater will become a valuable natural resource state side that CBWM needs to factor. CBWM will need to know NAFTA and the Boundary Waters Treaty as well as it does the waterway.
The last suggestion I have is in deciding in advance how far you are prepared to go at civil disobedience as an organizational decision. I use the example of Naomi Klein who got arrested outside the White House in 2011. Her power was in the pen and up until then her mobility to travel and communicate may have outweighed the need for her to be resistive, but she got caught up in the moment (CBC, 2011). There is no right or wrong answer to this, but it should be a group decision on your methods, as the entire CBWM will be impacted.

CBC. (2011, September 2). Naomi Klein arrested at D.C. pipeline protest. Retrieved from CBC Radio:…
Davidson, H. C., & Paisley, R. K. (2009, March). The Columbia River Basin: Issues and Driving Forces within the Columbia River Basin with the Potential to Affect Future Transboundary Water Management. Retrieved from Canadian Columbia River forum:…
KTUNAXA. (2012, November 30th). Ktunaxa Announce November 30th as Filing Date for Judicial Review of Jumbo Resort. Retrieved from Ktunaxa Nation:
Paskal, C. (2009). The Vulnerability of Energy Infrastructure to Environmental Change. Retrieved from Chatham House Briefing Paper:,…


This case study highlights some of the very interesting precursors for successfully implementing community-based approaches to water management. As demonstrated with both examples, strong leadership within both government and community groups is a key component for successful partnerships. I would ask however, if there is any additional information from the LWP example on how these strong relationships with local government were formed and built upon? Was it pioneered from a champion within local government? Did it take place as a function of a pre-existing good working relationship with government, allowing NGOs to have the reputation to foster success? Or, was it built through change in cultural attitudes over time, leading to a systemic shift in cultural acceptance of the roles of NGOs in water governance?

That said, both cases are excellent examples of legitimacy being built into planning processes and the capacity being built in current governance structures to allow NGOs and citizen groups to directly participate in local decision-making. The LWP and Crystal Lake examples demonstrated the successes in fostering strategic partnerships between government and community groups, allowing governments to delegate some of their monitoring to the community. Not only is the local knowledge being put to good use, community-based monitoring broadens traditional scientific approaches and enhances social capital by strengthening the bonds within the community and with regulators. I hope to see more of these approaches being adopted in the future.


Community Research Connections Case Study Comment (This response is a requirement for Royal Roads University course ENVR 545, May 2013).

The Lake Windermere Project and the Christina Lake Stewardship Society that form the basis of the Columbia Basin Community-Based Water Monitoring case study clearly demonstrate the difficulties of local involvement and input in decision-making in complicated regulatory regimes. As this case study highlights water sustainability across Canada remains a contentious issues that is often poorly managed between competing layers of federal, provincial and municipal governments. Unlike other case studies featured on the CRC website such as community engagement in Whistler 2020 or sustainability planning in the Comox Valley it appears much more difficult to ensure resource sustainability when the resource is common and also when political boundaries overlap and the implementation of recommendations and objectives cannot be contained and enforced within one master document such as an Official Plan, though The Lake Windermere Project did have some limited success in this area. As seen through many of the CRC case studies featured on this site direct participation in local political decision-making would appear to be a key component to community engagement.

As outlined in the case study organizations that typically engage in community based monitoring tend to be well organized and hold tangible social capital that can be leveraged to influence decision-making. Governments have been quick to recognize the value of these organizations in providing useful data that can be accessed remotely by officials. Initiatives such as the Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network (CABIN) by Environment Canada to establish a national protocol for site specific benthic collection and analysis is one example of such an effort. But watersheds and their ecological components are complex systems that require integrated monitoring programs and adaptive management to respond accordingly and this usually requires formal agreements between jurisdictions outlining responsibilities and expectations. Watersheds in Canada are also geographically immense and often cover multiple political jurisdictions creating challenges of commonality between upstream and downstream users (what do the residents of Lake Windermere, BC have in common with the residents of Portland Oregon? What do the residents of Valemount, BC have in common with the residents of Vancouver?) . Unless extremely limited in geographic and ecological scope as were the two organizations featured in the case study then these challenges are not easy to address in the absence of clear regulatory influence.

One possible solution to Strategic Questions 1 & 2 (above) would be the creation within legislation of regional and transjurisdictional watershed planning boards, commissions or agencies that would act in a management capacity for the various layers of government and have local “councils” that could integrate data from community-based monitoring programs into overall resource management. The Peel River Watershed Commission in the Yukon Territory is one example of this approach but the effectiveness of this Commission is in doubt due to its infancy and the controversy over its recommended land use plan and extreme development pressure. Another Northern example, the Mackenzie River Basin Board, has been an abject failure (Holroyd, 2009) through lack of political traction to achieve its goals and a lack of legislative power to bind jurisdictions to agreements or targets. In the Mackenzie River scenario integrated resource management has given way to finger pointing between provincial and federal governments largely due to resource development pressures on the Peace and Athabasca Rivers. Perhaps scale is the issue with community-based monitoring as lakes – especially recreational lakes – may simply be easier to monitor and manage than rivers?

Strategic Question #3 asks “besides integration and coordination with formal government decision-making, what else is needed for a community-based monitoring program to be effective?” Once influence on decision-making has been achieved as outlined above the second component to #3 is in financial capacity and logistical support for communities. In the case study example the two featured organizations were able to produce some educational and outreach benefits despite struggling with a lack of volunteers, uncertainty of influence and very little funding. It doesn’t state this explicitly but it is fair to assume that after regular water sampling activities and hosting some workshops the volunteers involved did not have much capacity for any other activities. It seems clear here in the case study that the BC Ministry of the Environment’s support is tenuous at best in meaningful support. Overarching these challenges are issues of trust that quickly fall apart as the cast changes. In the absence of a regulatory system that requires community based input it would be expected that these initiatives will likely fade into memory. The Lake Windermere Project was able to integrate local water data into the community’s official plan but there is no mention of ongoing monitoring activities or adaptive management capacity. With a similar problem the Government of the Northwest Territories, in preparation for devolution and the transfer of regulatory control over land and water to the territorial government, has recognized it has extremely limited capacity to effectively monitor water and has implemented the NWT Water Stewardship: A Plan For Action, which among other things provides direct assistance to community-based monitors. Local residents can access various aquatic ecosystem health indicator factsheets and toolkits online or in the community as well as actual funding for monitoring equipment and training workshops. In turn as these community-based monitoring programs become established the programs themselves receive funding to collect monitoring data.

Strategic Questions #4, #5 & #6 are more difficult to critique and answer as they rest more with value systems of governance models and social capital building, which own different political leverage points at different points in time and space (one government may support regulatory reform while another will not etc.). Ultimately community-based monitoring programs and the information they gather need to be formally integrated into a larger process for the effort and results to be meaningful, preferably through legislation that binds regulatory authorities to recognize and address local resident concerns.

Dale, A. (2001). At the Edge: sustainable development in the 21st century. Vancouver: UBC Press.
Holroyd, P (2009). The Waters That Bind Us: Transboundary Implications of Oil Sands Development. Drayton Valley. The Pembina Institute.

NWT Water Stewardship - Government of the Northwest Territories:…

Mackenzie River Basin Board:

Peel River Watershed Planning Commission: