Watersheds BC is a partnership initiative that empowers local leaders to secure a sustainable future for their watersheds and the communities that depend on them.
Why Local Watershed Security Matters
The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed challenges with the resilience of our public health systems globally. As we plan for a post-COVID future, it is critical that we ensure other vulnerable systems are fortified to manage and avoid future crises.
Our freshwater systems, or ‘watersheds’ are one of these vulnerable systems. The impacts of floods, droughts, cumulative development pressures, and competing water uses are undermining the economic, ecological and social resilience of communities across the province.
In response to these challenges, First Nations, local governments and community organizations are taking leadership in safeguarding their local watersheds and the remarkable rivers, lakes and aquifers that are the life-giving arteries for supernatural BC.
Launched in early 2020, Watersheds BC works collaboratively with community leaders to equip them with the knowledge and skills to solve problems in their home waters. These local leaders include First Nations, local government staff, watershed boards and roundtables, regional provincial staff, and other community champions.
Watersheds BC is a partnership initiative founded by the BC Freshwater Legacy Initiative, First Nations Fisheries Council, POLIS Project on Ecological Governance and the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources. Based on research and experience, these organizations identified the need for a dedicated resource centre to provide local leaders with tools and support to implement best practices for watershed management and governance.
Zita is the Director of Watersheds BC. In this role she leads the staff team and oversees operations and program delivery. She is also the Co-Director of the Healthy Watersheds Initiative (HWI) where she works in partnership with the Real Estate Foundation to support the development and implementation of the HWI.
Zita spent her early years living in northern Ontario near the shores of the world’s largest freshwater lake – Lake Superior. Spending these formative years exploring the wilderness of the region on skis, canoe and foot instilled a love, curiosity and respect for the natural world.
She brings more than 20 years of experience working for the non-profit, private and public sectors, both domestically and internationally. Zita spent 14 years in different roles for the federal and provincial governments. During her time with the B.C. government, she led the development of Living Water Smart – BC’s Water Plan and the policy development for the BC Water Sustainability Act. More recently she has worked as a consultant on water policy, social innovation and water governance issues. She is a Systems Change Advisor for the Vancouver Foundation. Zita has BAH from Queen’s University and an MA in Environmental Studies from the University of Victoria.
As Program Coordinator, Ally supports Watersheds BC operations with administration and communications support across program areas.
Ally grew up exploring the watersheds of the south coast and west Kootenays. She is an avid naturalist and outdoor adventurer with a passion to learn about the people and places of British Columbia.
For two decades, Ally animated innovative projects that connected communities and cross-sector partnerships with local ecosystems of the Columbia Basin. Back on the coast since 2017 she has worked as operations management for food security non-profit organizations coordinating collective impact in the capital region. Ally has a BSc. in Geography and Environmental Studies with UVic and a Bachelor of Education from UBC.
Tara is the Senior Indigenous Advisor for the Healthy Watersheds Initiative. In this role she supports the HWI team to identify and enable opportunities for best practices in supporting Indigenous watershed work.
Tara was born and raised, and has spent the majority of her adult life in Northern BC in the Skeena and Nass Watersheds. She is a member of Gitanyow First Nation, and holds the traditional name Naxginkw.
Over her 20-year career, she has worked for a number of First Nations, ENGOs, philanthropic organizations, post-secondary institutions, the provincial government, and the BC Forest Practices Board. Her areas of interest are: Indigenous governance and laws, sustainability assessment, community-driven research, Aboriginal case law, policy development, environmental monitoring and adaptive management, and land use planning. Tara has a Masters Degree in Political Science from the University of Northern BC. She lives in Hazelton with her two children.
Senior Indigenous Advisor
Aanchal is the Indigenous Community Connector for the Healthy Watersheds Initiative. Her role is to support indigenous-led and -partnered project leads with programmatic and administrative support.
Born in Mississauga, Ontario, Aanchal was raised bordering the shores of Lake Ontario and the Credit River. She grew up captivated by the way water held a central role in survival across species and cultures.
Aanchal’s fascination with how human activities interact with the natural world have guided her professional and academic work. She brings with her domestic and international experience in project management, community engagement and facilitation, communications, and First Nations governance and policy development. Prior to joining Watersheds BC, Aanchal was practicing law, predominantly in the areas of human rights, employment, civil litigation, and governance and policy development. Aanchal holds a BBA in International Business from Wilfrid Laurier University, a certificate in International Development from Humber College, and a JD from Thompson Rivers University. She was called to the BC Bar in 2020.
Indigenous Community Connector
Claire is the Program Associate for the Healthy Watersheds Initiative. Claire’s role is to support project leads through a variety of processes, including operational and reporting requirements.
Claire grew up on several heavily urbanized waterways, including the Long Island Sound watershed and muddy Mekong River Delta. Seeing the impact of human activity on water, and the impact of water on human activity, has made her appreciate the need for responsible watershed governance.
She brings experience in community engagement and facilitation, grant administration, non-profit communications, and human health research. Prior to working at the Healthy Watersheds Initiative, Claire worked with BC Healthy Communities to provide capacity-building support to local governments taking action on the social determinants of health. Claire has a BA in Political Science and History from Goucher College (Baltimore) and an MSc in Kinesiology from the University of Victoria.
Watersheds BC's Approach
Watersheds BC is founded on the belief that securing the resilience of our watersheds requires new approaches to watershed management and governance that are grounded in community values and local and Indigenous knowledge.
Based on over a decade of research by our founding partners, Watersheds BC has identified several key elements of effective watershed management and governance systems in BC.
Watersheds BC provides a range of tools, resources and peer-to-peer support to respond to these needs and strengthen community capacity to implement best management and governance practices.
Opportunities for Economic Stimulus in BC Watersheds
As governments across Canada review their options to kick-start economic recovery, they have an opportunity to make public investments that not only put people back to work, but also help to strengthen local capacity to overcome and prosper in the face of other near-term threats to public safety and security.
Watersheds BC is working with a number of partners to highlight to the provincial government the benefits of investing in watershed resilience through the creation of a BC Watershed Security Fund. Such a Fund would provide both short-term economic stimulus and longer-term sustainable funding for local watershed security.
To support this effort, Watersheds BC is identifying a broad range of tangible local projects that will generate employment, support economic stimulus and build community resilience. Through our networks, we are reaching out to local governments, First Nations, community organizations, farmers, businesses and other watershed leaders.
This work builds on research and pilot projects undertaken by the Sustainable Funding for Watershed Governance Initiative, which identified the need for a diversity of funding sources to underpin watershed security. This research also identified a critical gap and need for the Province to dedicate funding support to local watershed management and partnerships.
In September 2020, the Province of BC announced a $27 million investment in watershed initiatives and wetland projects across the province. This investment will be delivered through the Healthy Watersheds Initiative - a partnership to support British Columbia’s economic recovery through investments in community-driven watershed conservation and restoration projects.
More than 60 watershed projects are being supported in communities around the province. The confirmed group of watershed projects to be funded has been technically reviewed by the Province and assessed for success in meeting the Province’s economic and environmental goals.
This initiative will improve the health of watersheds, create economic and skills development opportunities, generate new learning, and strengthen relationships with First Nations and Indigenous-led organizations in ways that support the implementation reconciliation.
The Real Estate Foundation of BC, in partnership with Watersheds BC, has been asked by the Province to support the implementation of the Initiative including: administering agreements and funding, supporting learning and evaluation, and facilitating collaboration between the Province, First Nations, watershed organizations and community partners.
Our Program Areas
Watersheds BC delivers capacity-building to support local leaders on key elements necessary for successful local watershed management and governance.
GET IN TOUCH
The Watersheds BC website is under development at watershedsbc.ca. In the meantime, feel free to reach out to Zita Botelho, Program Director, at