By Imogene Broberg-Hull

2020 has been a tough year for all of us. But with the creativity, strength, and positivity of our amazing community across Canada, we’ve emerged from this year as optimistic as ever.

This year couldn’t have been predicted by even the most skillful fortune tellers. Before 2020, I doubt I’d used the word “Pandemic” more than 5 times. Now look at us! We’ve all adapted at an alarming rate, and Fraser Riverkeeper is no exception. We’ve managed to expand our water monitoring program, move online, hit record-high Swim Guide usership, and more. Check it out! 

Gassy

Gassy, the cutest and hungriest water monster we’ve ever seen. 

This spring our Swim Drink Fish team in Toronto, launched an exciting new online tool called Gassy. Gassy is a photo submission tool (and our favorite little water monster) that uses artificial intelligence technology to track patterns in photos of water you submit online. The goal is to track what is in the water, whether that be garbage, wildlife, people recreating, or otherwise! With enough photographs, Gassy will eventually be able to identify and categorize your submissions. For example, Gassy will be able to identify a floating Tim Hortons cup. So far, Gassy has identified 6825 objects in 6000 photos!

To feed Gassy, take a photo near a waterbody and submit your photo online!

Our Covid-19 Response

The Swim Drink Fish team in our daily check in last Friday (we dressed up fancy because why not?)

While 2020 has been tough, this year has also presented the opportunity to connect with our team across the country and with local volunteers. When the pandemic restrictions first came crashing down in March, Swim Drink Fish quickly adapted to a remote working model. This move online allowed us Vancouverites to easily connect and check-in with the Toronto team in a deeper and more effective way. The increase in connectivity with Toronto has allowed for more efficient, integrated projects and stronger communication overall. We’ve also gotten to know our workmates across the country a lot better (they rule!).

One of our amazing super volunteers, Lisa, smiling underneath her mask in Olympic Village

Volunteering was also affected by Covid-19. For an organization that relies on larger groups and public outreach, limited social contact is a challenge. On the bright side, the benefit of small social bubbles is that we were able to establish a tight-knit group of dedicated volunteers who are able to regularly help us out when it is safe to do so. Hooray! With their help, we monitored the Olympic Village site for E.coli all summer long and now have expanded our sample sites for the colder months to pre-pandemic levels.

An All-Time High for Swim Guide

Swim Guide, the Swim Drink Fish platform that we upload our water quality data to, saw record high users this year as people around the world flocked to their beaches to get outside. About 2 million people used Swim Guide this year to check recreational water quality at beaches around the world. In Vancouver alone, we saw a 33% increase in Swim Guide users from last year with roughly 40,000 users throughout 2020.

Our Partnership with PSPS

Sampling at Wreck Beach on a very Vancouver day! 

This fall we partnered with Pacific Spirit Park Society (PSPS) to create our first ever external monitoring hub at Vancouver’s iconic Wreck Beach. Trained in sample collection and processing by Swim Drink Fish, the folks at PSPS now collect samples every weekend along the vast shore of Wreck Beach with a team of dedicated volunteers. To help with this expansion, we welcomed our latest team member, Lisa Iqbal, into the mix. Lisa helps process and analyze the sample results from PSPS at our in house lab. The data from their year-round water monitoring program can be found here on Swim Guide as well as on the Open Data Portal. If you’d like to participate in their Wreck Beach monitoring, reach out to [email protected] to sign up.

 

Advocating for our Waters

Graphic rendering of the new Iona Island Wastewater Treatment Plant. Image: Metro Vancouver.

Fraser Riverkeeper, launched in 2007 by Lauren Hornor and the late Doug Chapman, a renowned environmental lawyer and seasoned prosecutor of environmental crime. When Doug founded Fraser Riverkeeper, he vowed that the organization would be a vigilant protector and defender of the river and its surrounding waters including the Georgia Strait, Howe Sound and Burrard Inlet. It was this vision of a clean, sewage-free Fraser River that fueled the organization’s fight for better waste treatment at Vancouver’s municipal wastewater treatment plants. Doug Chapman dedicated his life to protecting swimmable, drinkable, fishable water, and he would be so proud of the progress being made today. This fall, Fraser Riverkeeper submitted comments to Metro Vancouver in support of the long-anticipated true-tertiary level wastewater treatment at the new Iona Plant in Richmond. In the same stride, Metro Vancouver has announced its decision to share real-time updates with the public on combined sewer overflows in the Lower Mainland. Vancouver will join Kingston and Sudbury, ON as the third city in Canada to share real-time CSO data with the public. Doug's legacy lives on as people continue to restore and protect swimmable, drinkable, fishable water across Canada.

We’re Looking Forward to 2021 

2020 has certainly had its ups and downs. As we round the corner into a new year, we’re focusing on the positive outcomes, celebrating hard work, learning from 2020, and looking forward to what 2021 has to offer! If you’re a fan of what we’re doing over here at Fraser Riverkeeper, please consider donating towards our year end Giving Campaign. Donations will directly support our water monitoring hub based in False Creek, Vancouver. 

A big BIG thank you to everyone who has contributed so far to our campaign. If there is one thing that we can take away from this year, it’s that we have the most amazing community behind us. 

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Thanks to our supporters

Sitka
RBC Blue Water Project
Lush
Wall
MEC
Smak
Tides
Woodtone
Telus
Progressive Waste Solutions
Ocean Ambassadors
BC Hydro
DM Foundation
City of North Vancouver
Jack Johnson
Flowlink