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Testing the Waters with Water Rangers

Lisa Amerongen

Lisa Amerongen

Director of Communications

Water Rangers is a non-profit social enterprise, and their goal is to help communities collect water quality data and share the results publicly. They build tools to help communities learn about the water bodies we all love. Their free, open-data platform, water testing kits, and online course are tools for anyone to learn about and protect our lakes, rivers, and oceans. We checked in with their Executive Director & Designer, Kat Kavanagh, to see how they’re doing in the middle of the pandemic.

It’s possible that, though we’re just seven months in, 2020 has been the longest year of all time. What’s something that’s kept you positive in the last few months?

This year, our biggest win was becoming a part of CSI Climate Ventures’ Earth Tech program. We’re at the stage where we’ve proven that our model works, engages communities, and helps fill data gaps. What we really needed to do now is learn how to reach bigger audiences and scale throughout Canada. Through mentorship in this program, our growing team has learned so much. We’re maturing and growing up as an organization and building the capabilities to support more communities.

How has being part of the CSI community impacted your work?

Being a part of this community has taught me that I’m not alone; I’m not the only one trying to do business in a different way to better our planet. There is support in this community that cares about making sure the future is resilient and better for our environment. The people I’ve met are so optimistic and forward-thinking. Everyone helps create opportunities for us to learn from experts and connect us with partners, and I’m so grateful to be a part of it all.

I think my favourite CSI moment was the launch of the Earth Tech program. Seeing the skill and talent in that room made me realize I’m part of something bigger and need to up my game. There’s something about being around other incredible ventures that are similarly-minded and making a big difference in the social enterprise space; it’s very invigorating.

We’ve been checking in with our Members to see how they are coping with COVID-19. How did the pandemic affect your work?

We had so many events booked this summer! I was supposed to go to the Northwest Territories, throughout Eastern Ontario to support partner events, and Toronto to work with partners and communities. COVID-19 has forced me to prioritize future-proofing Water Rangers. Now, I’m considering how to grow the organization and create the processes that will help us scale to prepare us for opportunities as they come. I’m optimistic that we can use this as a chance to think about how to scale effectively.

And you do a lot of work online, right?

Yes! We’re also building more online resources, like online curricula, to support groups across Canada. We need digital tools to get this geographic reach and to weather the pandemic. As we try to build more resilience in water testing systems, I believe we’re in the right place as we consider how to move forward and rebuild our economies. It has been a little bit of a struggle at times. Overall, though, I’m so pleased that people are interested in protecting the environment in ways they weren’t before. People are aware that we have a unique opportunity to change the course of action for the environment’s future. It’s both hard and exciting.

Big question: what’s your pie-in-the-sky dream for a post-COVID world?

As a society, the way we’re monitoring water right now isn’t working. There are data deficiencies, data is lost when monitoring programs end, they’re expensive, and data isn’t shared effectively. This needs to change. A post-COVID world needs to consider creative solutions and be more sustainable in the long term to offer spaces to better protect water. There’s an aspect of justice in water monitoring – access to clean water, the outdoors, and a connection to our homes – and we need better tools to make sure participation in monitoring and conservation is equitable and accessible.

How can the CSI community support Water Rangers?

We’re always looking for new people to get involved in water testing. If you know of any organizations looking to monitor water, or have contacts that could help us expand, we’d love to connect to them. We’re looking forward to supporting more organizations, groups, and individuals in water stewardship!

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