BC’s Watersheds: A CodeBlue BC Year in Review
We launched CodeBlue BC launched back in January of 2020 and our efforts to secure and restore BC’s watersheds have taken big strides ever since — despite unforeseen hurdles, like global pandemics. We accomplished some pretty great things this year, but at the same time, the stakes have never been higher. Check out some highlights from 2021.
We started off the year with a push to the province, asking them to invest more in watershed security. We set up a tool so British Columbians could leave a message with our Premier, asking him to keep his promise and invest in BC watersheds, and to date, over 800 of you left messages for him. (Don’t be shy - click here to leave a message if you haven’t yet). Though water champions across the province helped secure $27 million for watershed projects in 2021, the province has not set aside more funding for 2022 yet, so in 2022 we will keep pushing them to quit dithering and create the Watershed Security Fund they promised British Columbians over a year ago.
Early this year also marked the launch of the Freshwater Stream podcast, a six-episode series that was created with the support of our CodeBlue Team. It features stories of people who are defending their home watersheds across the province. The team is currently working on Season Two, which will launch in early 2022 and will feature stories on topics such as the BC floods and groundwater mismanagement — an issue that we are going to dive into more in the new year.
In the spring, we worked with representatives of the Lower Mainland Local Government Association (LMLGA) to bring forth a resolution that was passed by the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM), calling on the provincial government to invest in a $75 million per year Watershed Security Fund. CodeBlue BC supporters across the lower mainland sent over 2000 emails to their city councillors and mayors asking them to vote ‘yes’ on this resolution. This means we now have the support of local governments across the province in our call for funding for watersheds. In 2022, we will continue to engage and work with municipal representatives to advance the Watershed Security Fund.
I think I can speak for the team when I say that this year, we are most proud of how we supported Vernon’s fight to protect their drinking water. Concerned residents reached out to us when their voices were not being heard, and logging company Tolko Industries was about to clearcut 500 m upstream of the community’s drinking water intake. We helped mobilize residents and facilitated over 400 emails from Vernon residents to their MLA and Minister of Forests. A few days later, Tolko reached out to say they were abandoning their plans to log near the drinking water intake!. This was a huge, people-powered win and we’re grateful for the opportunity to help. Part of the CodeBlue plan is to implement more local control, so residents have more of a say in how their watersheds are managed. We look forward to building our capacity to help more communities stand up to industries that do not operate in sustainable ways.
This year we also took up efforts against the expansion of commercial water bottling operations in BC, calling for a moratorium on new water bottling licenses. There are currently pending applications in Clinton and Salmon Arm, communities that were hit hard by drought this year. Over 4300 British Columbians have sent letters to their MLAs asking them to ban the bottlers. We recently received a lacklustre response to our request for a moratorium from the BC Minister of the Environment. Stay tuned for a future update where we will share more on this issue and our next steps. In the meantime, if you haven’t already, help keep the pressure on and send an email to help banish the bottlers.
The CodeBlue community has grown massively in 2021. We have over 6100 email subscribers and over 24,000 followers on our Facebook page. We reached over 750,000 people so far this year with stories about BC’s water and watersheds. We’ve also been connecting with our volunteers online and building community groups that are tackling water issues in their watersheds. In 2022, we will continue to engage British Columbians online but we are also excited to finally dive into in-person events and support our volunteers with projects in their communities.
We need to see some big changes in the province when it comes to the way big industry is allowed to treat our water and land, and we’re going to spend 2022 fighting for them.
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