Watersheds 2020: Stepping Stones to Watershed Governance

Watersheds 2020 – Stepping Stones to Watershed Governance was a virtual forum that brought BC’s water community together in a spirit of learning, sharing and exploration on October 15 and 16, 2020. The focus was on reconciliation and implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), co-governance and shared authority, and Indigenous laws in the freshwater context.

We were joined by over 200 water champions from across BC and Canada, including Ontario, Alberta, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Quebec, and Northwest Territories, and the Yukon. Participants included individuals from Indigenous Nations, watershed groups, local and provincial government, funding organizations, academic and research institutions, and professional networks.

Coast Salish Elder Florence James (Penelakut Island, BC) and Anishinaabe/Métis scholar Dr. Vicki Kelly (Simon Fraser University) opened and closed the virtual meeting space in a grounding way through ceremony, prayer, and teachings. The conference planning team was honoured and grateful for this generous sharing and work to gather participants together in mind, heart, and spirit.

Participants heard contributions from 31 speakers and moderators and had the opportunity to share innovations and learnings, explore what it means to nurture novel partnerships and watershed decision-making models, and be inspired to continue supporting watershed security initiatives in their home waters. Sessions were curated to ensure that the space needed to create and deepen connections and understandings was not lost in a virtual setting.

After the forum, a graphic illustration titled, Growing a Watershed Movement: A Decade of Gatherings was developed by the POLIS team in collaboration with Sam Bradd at Drawing Change. The illustration communicates the journey towards a place-based, watershed governance approach in BC with the biennial Watersheds forums as stepping stones along the path.


Watersheds 2020 continued the more than decade-long tradition of biennial watershed forums in BC that are designed to inspire and nourish BC’s freshwater community. As part of the planning team, led by the POLIS Water Sustainability Project, Watersheds BC worked together to design and facilitate the two-day virtual forum, with the support of our hosting partners: BC Freshwater Legacy Initiative, Canadian Freshwater Alliance, First Nations Fisheries Council, and Forum for Leadership on Water (FLOW). The planning team worked to create a meaningful and respectful space for cross-cultural learning between Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants within the limitations of virtual meeting platforms.

We thank all who attended and look forward to the next one! For those unable to attend or wanting a refresher, recordings from Watersheds 2020 can be found here.

Virtual Watersheds Forum 2020

Watersheds 2020 Planning Team