by Priya Vaidya
On September 26, 2021, the world celebrates World Rivers Day, which aims to raise awareness and engagement for conserving our rivers and waterways. With over 8,500 known rivers in Canada and growing, these ribbons of freshwater play a major role in our daily lives. Rivers carry freshwater from sources like rainfall or snowmelt and deliver it to larger bodies of water, like lakes. They are a source of fresh drinking water, recreation for Canadians, and they are home to a variety of native plants, mammals, fish, and birds.
With an increase in human activity and pollution in our rivers, this crucial source of freshwater is declining in quality and availability for both wildlife and Canadians. For example, a recent rise in plastic pollution into freshwater systems – like rivers – can be of concern for the quality, availability, and safety of freshwater resources that Canadians use. With about 60% of Canada’s freshwater flowing north and 85% of the population living in the south, it is critical that we do everything we can to ensure Canadian rivers remain healthy!
For this World Rivers Day, here are 5 easy and effective ways that you can get involved in keeping our Canadian rivers healthy and sustainable for years to come!
- Learn about issues affecting your local watersheds and rivers
The first and most important step towards addressing key issues surrounding our Canadian rivers is to learn about them!
Searching for your local watershed and rivers online is an excellent starting point. Canada has 25 major watersheds, each with their own set of rivers that contribute to the ecosystem and provide resources for local Canadians. WWF Canada’s watersheds report provides an excellent resource for finding your local watershed and learning about its health and issues.
- Spend time exploring your local rivers
An effective (and incredibly fun!) way to learn more about your local rivers is by getting out there and exploring them!
Stroll, hike, or paddle along your local river to get a good understanding of the types of plants and animals that live in and around the river. Take a bird or plant identification book with you to spot native and non-native species around the area. Watersheds Canada has an excellent native plant database you can check out so you know some native plant species before you explore your local river! Exploring around can also help you find areas of high pollution and development around your river, which can be a great start for potential community cleanup projects you may want to organize.
- Organize a community event near your local riversides
If you are feeling extra motivated to take action in your community, organizing a river-themed event is a fantastic way to get involved this World Rivers Day. One simple and impactful event you can organize is a physically distanced community cleanup near your river! You can use the information you gathered from exploring your local riverside and creating positive change for your community and for the river. You are not limited to having a cleanup event – you can host socially distanced riverside picnics, tree plantings, fundraisers, or educational nature walks. You can even host online river webinars or trivia nights! The World Rivers Day website provides excellent information on how you can organize a river-themed event in your community.
Note: For your safety and for the health of the river and local wildlife, please follow safety protocols and local rules and regulations.
- Donate or volunteer at your local environmental stewardship organization
Supporting environmental stewardship organizations by donating your time and/or money is a fantastic way to contribute when you cannot directly participate in or organize an event. Getting involved with local organizations also means that you are engaging in and learning about these issues beyond World Rivers Day (September 26th). You can donate or volunteer to keep your rivers healthy and sustainable all year round!
If you like the work being done by Watersheds Canada to restore Canada’s lakes, rivers, and shorelines, you can partner with us by donating financially. All donations are eligible for a Canadian tax receipt.
- Get creative!
If all the learning, exploring, organizing, and volunteering has made you even more passionate about our rivers, you can express this passion through art! You can spark a discussion by voicing your concern about freshwater issues in Canada through painting, writing, singing, dancing, poetry, or anything else your heart desires. In doing so, you can bring an optimistic light to a serious issue by expressing your concerns through a creative and constructive outlet.
If you post your World Rivers Day inspired art on any social media, please feel free to tag us at #WatershedsCanada!
Whether you choose to get involved using any, all, or none of these methods, the important thing to remember is that World Rivers Day is a day for bringing awareness and action to the issues impacting our rivers. Canadian rivers provide us with freshwater that supports our daily life and the lives of so many plants and animals around us. Let’s do everything we can, big or small, to keep Canadian rivers healthy and sustainable for years to come!
- Official World Rivers Day website: https://worldriversday.com/
- General information about Canadian rivers: https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/water-overview/sources/rivers.html
- An eye-opening report on the recent, COVID-19 related increase in single-use plastic pollution into Canada’s freshwater systems: https://www.iisd.org/system/files/2020-08/fresh-water-plastic-covid-19.pdf
- For shoreline property owners who want to be active stewards of their local waterways: https://watersheds.ca/our-work/resources/