What are the Best Ways for Industries to Be Water Stewardship Leaders?



Raymond Ferris, Matawa First Nations Ring of Fire Mining Coordinator takes a break for some fishing in Ontario's Far North. Photo by Laura Taylor, Shared Value Solutions Ltd.

“Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can't go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.”

~ Margaret Atwood, the Penelopiad

By Don Richardson, Managing Partner, Shared Value Solutions Ltd.

We spend a lot of time on the water, in the water, working around water, and working to understand the impacts of mining, oil & gas projects and other industrial developments on watersheds. Much of the time we are working closely with Aboriginal communities. Many First Nations' creation oral history cycles begin when there was just water - or "nii-bi" in Ojibwe- on the earth. First Nation people have Treaty and Aboriginal community rights with respect to water. First Nation women have an inherited role to be traditional keepers and spiritual protectors of water.

We get to work with many industry leaders who are genuine water stewardship leaders and who have deep respect for Aboriginal interests in water. These water stewardship leaders share a few things in common - they:

  1. Engage, early and often, with communities and other interested parties, openly and transparently
  2. Work to understand community priorities, share plans and collaborate on solutions, providing capacity resources to communities where appropriate
  3. Collaborate and partner to develop mitigation plans to address impacts, as early as possible in project planning
  4. Develop collaborative water stewardship initiatives and projects with people and organizations in the watersheds in which they operate (check out our blob post on "Five Ideas for Engaging Watershed Stewards in Source Water Protection Planning")
  5. Take a watershed perspective and seek to understand formal, informal and traditional approaches to local watershed stewardship and governance, seeking traditional knowledge where available
  6. Adapt their corporate operational water management programs to fit the realities of specific local watersheds and local watershed stewards and governance frameworks - including groundwater governance
  7. Focus on the importance of healthy ecosystem functions in relation to water flow, levels, temperature and quality
  8. Work to identify and assess long-term cumulative impacts of their own operations AND the historic, current and future impacts of other watershed users
  9. Reduce, reuse and recycle to promote operational water efficiencies
  10. Engage in water footprinting activities, and engage people, communities and organizations around them in these exercises
  11. Seek opportunities to create shared value with their water management expenditures, including opportunities to marry operations water treatment and water management options with local community and local water steward needs and interests - sharing systems, sharing maintenance activities, sharing research, sharing knowledge development and sharing technical resources
  12. Marry operations water management with watershed water management through adaptive management approaches that line up with, and are informed by, regional watershed stewardship priorities

Interested in learning more about corporate social responsibility and what it takes to be a water stewardship leader?  Connect with us at Shared Value Solutions Ltd. 

At Shared Value Solutions Ltd. we bring the best environmental peer review, strategic advice, community engagement and traditional knowledge, land use, and socio-economic research expertise to address your challenges and opportunities.

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