Community water monitoring

Photo by Alex Harris / Raincoast.

Clean water is essential for people, salmon, and whales. We are working with Indigenous Nations, communities, and governments as we operationalize a new approach to water pollution monitoring. Watersheds are serving as the basis for characterizing water quality from mountain peaks to the sea, providing an opportunity to identify pollution sources or activities that degrade fish habitat.

We have begun our work in select watersheds that drain into the Fraser River and Salish Sea. Our goal is to combine a high quality analysis of water in all partnering watersheds, with a mix of engagement and capacity-building activities that are unique to each area.

An underwater view of a school of salmon swimming above the gravel with shores and trees and forests in the background.
Photo by Fernando Lessa.

Chief Silver and Peter Ross standing at a stage.
Sumas First Nation chief Dalton Silver and Dr. Peter Ross and the press conference for the report release. Photo by Alex Harris / Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

Working with partners

Our Healthy Waters community water pollution monitoring program works within several watersheds in BC. These include the Chemainus River, Cowichan River, and Tod Creek on Vancouver Island, and the Cheakamus River at Whistler, Sumas Lake watershed in the Fraser Valley, and Hope Slough near Chilliwack. We have conducted a first round of sampling in all of these watersheds during the ‘wet season’ in late 2023, after an initial ‘dry season’ sampling in the Whistler/Cheakamus corridor. We have also conducted focused pilot projects in the Sumas Lake area in the Lower Fraser Valley, and in Fulford Harbour on Salt Spring Island. 

We continue to grow our program, and are expanding our partnerships with new Indigenous Nations and communities. Each watershed will benefit from expert support, transparent data sharing, training, and capacity-building. Findings from each watershed-based project will be integrated into a public-facing website featuring an in-depth summary of contaminant threats within and among watersheds. 

Science to inform conservation 

Findings from our water pollution monitoring will enable solution-oriented activities and practices that protect and restore fish habitats in BC. Our comprehensive, high-resolution analysis of water will document the extent to which hundreds of different contaminants that are released into BC waters, such as nutrients, metals, hydrocarbons, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, surfactants, PCBs, perfluoro-alkyl substances and tracers of human waste. This spectrum of analyses will support source identification and a ranking of risks to fish habitat within and among watersheds, supporting source controls and best practices in waste management, civil engineering and riparian zone design.

Mobile lab providing access to watersheds

We have acquired an all-wheel drive cargo van, and are now working on converting this into a fully functional mobile laboratory. This means designing, building, and deploying this vehicle – to be named Tracker as a community-oriented, mobile water pollution monitoring lab in support of healthy ecosystems in BC. 

Some Healthy Waters team members do water sampling over a river and rocks on the lower mainland.

Our partners

  • Cheam First Nation
  • Chemainus First Nation
  • Cowichan Tribes
  • Tsartlip First Nation
  • W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council
  • Lower Fraser Fisheries Alliance
  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada
  • Environment and Climate Change Canada
  • Metro Vancouver
  • Capital Regional District of Victoria
  • Pacific Salmon Foundation
  • Ocean Diagnostics Inc.

Recent articles

Cargo van next to a river.

Sharing our plans for our future mobile lab

The Healthy Waters team has been busy this winter, with field work in seven watersheds, stretching from the Chemainus River watershed on Vancouver Island to the Nicola River watershed in…

Overhead photo of four killer whales swimming together.

Guide government actions on Southern Resident killer whale recovery: Take the federal survey before February 12, 2024 

Each year since 2019, the Canadian federal government has put seasonal measures in place to reduce the threats to endangered Southern Resident killer whales. The measures are intended to create…

Dr. Peter Ross sampling ocean water.

Building capacity to better protect water

Our Healthy Waters Program is transitioning from an idea into an exciting community-oriented water pollution monitoring initiative. We have been developing sampling protocols, acquiring field instruments, and working with our…

Sam Scott and Peter Ross standing in front of the future mobile lab, which is a grey sprinter van.

Help us build our new mobile lab, Tracker

I trod down the gravel path between my home and the ferry dock at Snug Cove on Bowen Island. The sun was not yet up, and there was a distinct,…