Posted by: Vicki Burns | June 18, 2010

Watershed – What Does it Mean? How the Shuswap Community Foundation Helped Educate Their Community

All too often those of us who work on environmental issues, use terminology that is not widely known. We forget that the jargon we use is not in everyone’s vocabulary. The term watershed is a great example of that. I heard one of my colleagues joking recently that some people think watershed is the little building where you keep jugs of water. In relation to land, a watershed is the entire geographical area in which all runoff from streams, rivers, lakes is being conveyed to the same water body.

image of the Shuswap watershed poster

Shuswap Watershed Poster

The Shuswap Community Foundation was involved in a terrific project in their community that really helped people to understand what a watershed is and where they lived within their own watershed. The Shuswap Watershed Project used several different approaches to drive home the lesson about their local watershed and what was happening to it.

image of river with  tree covered hill in background

Beautiful Shuswap Scene

Understanding what a watershed is and our place within our local watersheds, is part of helping people to understand that we are connected to so many other communities via water. Our use of water impacts the next community downstream from us. The Shuswap Watershed Project is a great example of helping everyone to understand the importance of water and how we treat it.



  1. Great to hear this story Vicki. I wonder if Shuswap would be interested in doing a guest blog about how they participated in this process and what they learned along the way? Thx for the great news!

  2. The Shuswap Watershed Project

    Backgrounder by Jim Cooperman, Project Leader

    A groundbreaking project to raise awareness and improve understanding of the Shuswap watershed was launched on February 25, 2010 with the release of a large format poster that includes the first map ever made of the entire Shuswap region. Finally Shuswap citizens could see and understand the full extent of their watershed thanks to the cooperative efforts of many governmental and non-governmental organizations and local businesses.

    Three thousand copies of the poster were printed for free distribution in school classrooms throughout the Shuswap and for sale to the public in local stores. The Shuswap Watershed Project includes the production of an online Resource Guide that will provide teachers and students with ideas and information that will support the use of the poster in classrooms. As well, the Project website will serve as a compendium of information about the watershed.

    To further get the message out, the Project sponsored a full week of activities in April around Earth Day, including displays, essay and art poster contests, tree planting, storm-drain marking, talks, guided hikes and tours, and two major public events. Sparking the most public interest was the “Song for the Shuswap” songwriting contest that culminated in a concert and slide show at which the 20 songwriter finalists performed before three judges and a packed audience. Also very popular was the watershed conference held at the local high school with speakers from government agencies, conservation and recreation groups and the local Secwepemc First Nation.

    Dr. Warren Bell, president of WA:TER, a local wetland conservation organization noted “Our group has been deeply involved in watershed-related work since its inception. But focusing on the watershed as a whole, which this project does, is a huge step forward for all of us towards rational management of our precious water resource. It unites all our efforts around a single, critical natural feature.” Bell added, “The beauty and significance of the two-dimensional image of the watershed — simultaneously abstract, and yet perfectly down-to-earth — is inspiring in itself.”

    The Shuswap finally has an established identity that is now mapped and during the “Celebrate the Shuswap” week, residents had many opportunities to learn more about their region so they could better appreciate its many values. And for the first time, conservation groups who usually focus on advocacy teamed up with government agencies, local First Nations, schools, businesses and community groups to collaboratively work together on a project dedicated to the health of this wondrous watershed.

    Shuswap Watershed Project Partners

    Adams Lake Indian Band, Adams River Salmon Society, Askews, Columbia Shuswap Regional District, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Fraser Basin Council, Fred Bird and Associates Ltd., Friends of Mara Lake, Integrated Land Management Bureau, Kingfisher Interpretive Centre, Living by Water, Mascon Cable Systems, Mediability Corporate Communications, Ministry of Environment, Neskonlith Indian Band, Salmon Arm Bay Nature Enhancement Society, Salmon Arm Secondary School, Shuswap Community Foundation , Shuswap Environmental Action Society, Shuswap Naturalists, Shuswap Photo Arts Club, Shuswap-North Okanagan School District #83, Shuswap Trail Alliance, Shuswap Water Action Team, Silvatech Consulting Ltd., Wetland Alliance: The Ecological Response (WA:TER)

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