Working toward healthy waters for people, salmon, and whales

An excerpt from our annual report, Tracking Raincoast into 2023.

The value of our Healthy Waters Program became evident this past fall when melting snowpack and an atmospheric river delivered a deluge of water to vulnerable areas in Princeton, Merritt, Hope, and the Lower Fraser Valley, with breaches of dikes on both sides of the Canada–USA border. The consequent floods impacted homes, farms, and fish habitat. 

Supported by the Lower Fraser Fisheries Alliance, the S’ólh Téméxw Stewardship Alliance, Sumas First Nation, Pacific Salmon Foundation, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, Raincoast immediately began sampling to assess water quality in the former Semá:th X̱ó:tsa (Sumas Lake) area of the Lower Fraser Valley. 

Two people pouring a bottle of a water sample into another bottle.
Photo by Alex Harris / Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

Our study detected high concentrations of many contaminants, including fecal coliform, excess nutrients, metals, hydrocarbons, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, perfluorinated compounds, sucralose, and tire-related chemicals in fish habitat. These findings raise important questions about land use practices, riparian zone protections, and wastewater management.

Our results are detailed in a new Raincoast report, A lake re-emerges: Analysis of contaminants in the Semá:th X̱ó:tsa (Sumas Lake) region following the BC floods of 2021, published in November 2022.

We hope that these findings inform urgently needed discussions around climate resilience, and provide innovative ways to implement management practices that support the restoration of fish habitat. 

We will be applying our community-based water pollution monitoring plan to select watersheds across southern BC in 2023.

Beautiful display of design of inside pages and cover of Tracking Raincoast into 2023.

You can help

Raincoast’s in-house scientists, collaborating graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and professors make us unique among conservation groups. We work with First Nations, academic institutions, government, and other NGOs to build support and inform decisions that protect aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, and the wildlife that depend on them. We conduct ethically applied, process-oriented, and hypothesis-driven research that has immediate and relevant utility for conservation deliberations and the collective body of scientific knowledge.

We investigate to understand coastal species and processes. We inform by bringing science to decision-makers and communities. We inspire action to protect wildlife and wildlife habitats.

Coastal wolf with a salmon in its month.
Photo by Dene Rossouw.