Study: Water Wins

Do Wins for Water Equal Wins for the Movement? Exploring the impact of campaign ‘wins’ on social movement organization in two Canadian communities.


When a local environmental campaign is successful, do more people sign up?

In 2013, social movement organization the WaterWealth Project took aim at the Hope, BC operations of Nestlé Waters Canada. They worked by drawing attention to the lack of regulation governing water use in the province, eventually contributing to the enactment of the province's new Water Sustainability Act early the next year, a process that is on-going. (See news by the Vancouver Province (2013) and Business in Vancouver (2015))

Also in 2013, social movement organizations in the community of Wellington County, Ontario challenged an appeal by Nestlé Waters Canada, to the Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal, to have certain conditions removed from a water-taking permit issued for water-bottling operations in the county. Unwilling to fight against the community pressure there, Nestlé eventually withdrew its appeal. (For more on this, see related news reports by CBC News and EcoJustice.)

In both cases, these policy wins were celebrated in the community and across Canada as a significant victory for water activists. However, important questions remain concerning the continuing impact of these 'wins' on public attitudes about and grassroots involvement in the social movement organizations involved. Specifically, does an organization’s success encourage more people to become involved, or make them feel that their participation is no longer needed?

This project, based at Renison College at the University of Waterloo, aims to explore these perceptions and how they may have changed over time. This will be done through interviews with key informants, a survey of residents in the two communities, and a retrospective analysis of local and national news media.

The first of three Water Wins Community Reports--Water Wins Fall 2015 Community Report--is now available! View it as a downloadable PDF and also online.

The second in the series, Water Wins Winter 2016 Community Report is up! Download or read online.

Water Wins Spring 2016 Community Report now available! View it as a downloadable PDF and also online.




This project is funded by a
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Development Grant.




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