Canada Water Week 2014 ran March 17-23 in the Fraser Valley, and what a busy week it was!
Just when preparations for Water Week events were really getting under way, the provincial government introduced the Water Sustainability Act in the Legislature. At 181 pages of legalese, referencing myriad other Acts, and with the government looking for public feedback on water pricing; suddenly WaterWealth had a major and urgent task at hand to digest this legislation and respond to media and other inquiries about it.
No matter for Water Week dreams! We stayed committed to the goal of sharing in some fun and engaging events with many fellow community members throughout the week-long coast-to-coast-to-coast celebration of the fresh waters that sustain us all. And, if we may say so ourselves, success was achieved!
Take a Look....
We started the week on Monday with the 'Get To Know Your Home Waters' Walk. People young and old gathered at the banks of the Vedder River to hear from local experts on various topics relating to this popular area. Dean Werk ><(((">Great River Fishing Adventures <")))>< shared his history of growing up on the river and spoke of the different runs of fish that make their way upstream year round and the important value they provide not only for the ecosystem but also for the local economy. Rachel Drennan of the Fraser Valley Watersheds Coalition talked about the important work her organization has done to restore fish spawning habitat and the value of maintaining clean channels of water for overall river health. Larry Commodore, former Soowahlie Councillor and Chief and WaterWealth Community Advisor told us of the history of the area, including how the river way was diverted due to a landslide and than later affected by the draining of Sumas Lake in the 1920s. He also emphasized the importance of respecting First Nation's title & rights when it comes to protecting our home water ways.
Monday finished with the Watery Film Night at the Sto:lo Research and Resource Management Center, which didn't go quite as planned, but maybe played out just as it should have. There were some insurmountable technical difficulties with the planned film showing of 'Watermark" so the assembled community members took the opportunity to share personal introductions about their relationship to the waters in the Fraser Valley while enjoying in some tea & coffee from Decades Coffee, fresh popped corn from Save on Foods and delicious cakes from the Yarrow Deli Co-Op, giving Natalie & Sheila time to set up the CBC Documentary 'Last Call at the Oasis'. ***Plans were made to reschedule a showing of Watermark, thus providing everyone another chance to see this award-winning film! If you want to know when we have this arranged, email email@example.com to stay in the loop!***
Wednesday saw many in our community gather at Sardis Secondary for the Water Champions Cafe, to talk about why our home waters matter and how we can keep them pure and flowing for generations to come. Nikki Rekman of the Chilliwack Vedder River Clean Up Society, Steve Clegg from the City of Chilliwack, Dennis Knopp & Janne Perrin of the Chilliwack Field Naturalists, local artist and traditional plant practitioner Carrielynn Victor, and Mike Pearson from Pearson Ecological were part of a group of 30 who came out for the event. It is clear that we have many water champions in our community, who have incredible vision, passion, and commitment to our local waterways. But it is also clear that there is a desire to see these numbers grow and for more members of our communities to come together in collaboration to ensure long term protection for our home rivers, lakes and streams.
Thursday provided a field trip as Larry and Ian took a drive up to Lillooet to join West Coast Environmental Law in presenting to the T’it’q’et First Nation on the Water Sustainability Act and development of community water statements. A fine supper was had followed by presentations and discussion, building both community knowledge and strengthening relationships through out the Fraser Canyon.
In what we considered a perfect alignment of calendars, Friday of Canada Water Week coincided with what would have been a regular Beer O'clock day (third Friday of each month)! We called it 'Wet Your Whistle Happy Hour(s) + Pub Night' and with the help of our friends at Major League 2 Pub we added some info displays from the Fraser Valley Watershed Coalition, Watershed Watch, Chilliwack's Adopt a River Program, Chilliwack Vedder River Clean Up Society, Council of Canadians, and the Fraser River Keepers, along with running a great Water Week Raffle. We were happy to distribute more than 10 different prizes from the generous gifts from local artist Gary Haggquist, Mountain Equipment Coop, Mt. Waddington's Outdoor, Starbucks - Cottonwood, and FreshSlice Pizza - Garrison.
Finally, on a rather cold and somewhat rainy Saturday the 22nd, hearty souls gathered at Central Community Park for the World Water Day Community Celebration! With the visual help of "water" at the event, Carrielynn Victor and AJ Klein gifted us with songs to celebrate water amplified by the support of sound equipment from Mike Evans at Go Audio. Larry shared some compelling statistics about the state of water globally and locally, including the chilling reality that more people die annually from water contamination issues than any other sort of violence including war. Reflecting on the global realities of water, Natalie highlighted how lucky we are to have access to the clean, swimmable and productive waters in the Fraser Valley and our responsibility to steward them. Academic and Activist Sakej Ward helped to impress importance of standing up for healthy waterways and not shying away from confronting the threats despite the tactic of FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) that is very often used by proponents of risky industrial projects. Heather Anderson from the Chilliwack United Church led the group in an inter-faith prayer, emphasizing the sacredness of water and the responsibility we all share to ensure it is treated as it should be.
All this to say, after a whole week of events with a lot of diversity in our activities, presenters, and attendees, it is abundantly clear that the "Fraser Valley [Hearts]'s Our Home Waters!"
Of course we could not have done it without the tireless efforts of our Volunteers, Media Sponsor, Grassroots Donors and Funding Organizations! A particular shout out goes to Bethany, April, Lenny, Chelsea, Nick, Katie, Wayne, Gary, Mason, and Cliff; 98.3 Star FM, Patagonia, Real Estate Foundation of BC, Van City, Council of Canadians and the Canadian Fresh Water Alliance!
And finally, a testament to the generous spirit that makes living in the Valley such a great place to call home, there were numerous in-kind contributions from the Sto:lo Resource and Research Management Center, Major Leagues Pub 2, Decades Coffee, Mt. Waddingtons Outdoor, Save on Foods, Mountain Equipment Co-op, Starbucks - Cottonwood, Fresh Slice Pizza - Garrison, Go Audio, and the City of Chilliwack.