Written by: Helena Cousins, Green Infrastructure Programs Coordinator
Over the past few months, I took part in the latest cohort of Community Water Leaders, an 8 to 12-week program offered by BARC (Bay Area Restoration Council). I wanted to take this opportunity to give a brief overview of my experience, why I signed up, and who I think the program would be well suited to!
What is ‘Community Water Leaders’?
CWL is a volunteer program for young professionals and university-level students who want to gain practical experience and knowledge on the history and management of the Hamilton Harbour. Participants get to contribute to ongoing water quality data from sites around the harbour, learning to use instruments to test physical and chemical water properties. Weekly seminars offer informational presentations on current issues, introductions to professionals working toward a healthy watershed, and career building advice!
Why did I become a Community Water Leader?
Let me start by saying that I was brought up and have spent most of my life in Hamilton. Nevertheless, I was shockingly unaware of the local history of the Hamilton Harbour and its watershed, and of the projects being undertaken in response to its challenges. My green infrastructure work at Green Venture is centred around understanding urban water pathways and changes to the natural water cycle. However, I didn’t feel as though I knew enough about issues specific to Hamilton.
So when I saw a post from BARC on social media saying they were accepting applications for the Fall 2021 cohort, I knew this was the perfect opportunity to fill my knowledge gaps!
Who is this program for?
BARCs Community Water Leaders program would benefit anyone who wants to:
- Explore Hamilton’s coastal zone while gaining practical experience with water quality testing equipment
- Learn more about Hamilton’s aquatic habitat restoration programs, stormwater and wastewater infrastructure, local history, and aquatic life
- Learn about local work being done by different levels of government and industry to improve water quality
- Make connections with like minded Hamiltonians and professionals while learning about different roles and organizations in the field
Who did we hear from?
The first couple weeks were spent getting to know the context and work that BARC does, how to use the water quality testing equipment (and why!), and of course, each other! We even got to go for a paddle around Cootes Paradise as BARC staff showed us some management infrastructure and features of the local environment. For the remainder of the program, we learned about a new project or topic from a different professional every Monday evening. These are some of the organizations we heard from, on-site and online:
- HOPA (Hamilton-Oshawa Port Authority) – We learned about the importance of our ports, and some of HOPA’s environmental initiatives
- Hamilton Wastewater Treatment Plant – We looked at how a local treatment plant works, the challenges they face and ongoing solutions, and their impact on our waterways
- Hamilton Conservation Authority – We were shown some of the examples of the restoration work they have done in Spencer Creek, and the impacts they’ve had on local species
- Environment and Climate Change Canada – We learned about the history and progression of Randle Reef and sediment remediation in Canadian waters
- Conservation Halton – Deep dive into the history and status of the Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan
- BARC’s Executive Director, Chris McLaughlin – To wrap up the program, we had an informal chat about career goals and opportunities, as well as advice on how to make connections and progress in the field
Applications for the next cohort are expected to open in February 2022. Follow BARC on social media to keep track!
Click here for more information on the Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan!