We’re leaving behind one of the hottest summers on record. As we packed up our swimsuits and pulled on our fall shirts at Waterkeeper, we started thinking about all the people who came together in the last year to make your summer swimmable.
From testing the waters to creating educational programs, it takes a large and diverse community to help protect your lake. Many of them do their work quietly, and you may never know how they’ve touched your life.
How many of these people could you name?
1. Your city’s beach sampling team
Most beaches in Ontario are sampled by people who work for city health units. Every day from June to September, hundreds of people fan out across Ontario beaches. They collect water samples, send them off for testing, and then post alerts to let you (and Swim Guide) know which beaches meet recreational water standards. Every day. All summer long. Without them, none of us would know which beaches are clean. Because of them, Ontario has one of the best beach monitoring networks in North America.
2. The Pan Am Games water sports community
Sure, the headlines focused on carpool lanes and medal counts. But dig deeper than that and you’ll see that the Games showed off the Lake Ontario watershed in all its glory. Sailing. Kayaking. Triathlon. These world-class events attracted visitors, athletes, and media from across the Americas. As a result, interest in water sports and recreational water quality skyrocketed to an all-time high. More media talked about Lake Ontario. More groups invited Waterkeeper to speak or distribute material. And more users flocked to Swim Guide to find beaches than ever before. The Pan Am Games reminded us what being part of the Lake Ontario community really means.
3. Government summer employment programs
If you joined the Waterkeeper community this summer, chances are you spoke to one of our summer students. Thanks to Canada’s Summer Jobs and Ontario’s Summer Experience programs, our Swimmable Water Ambassadors spent three solid months meeting recreational water users in Toronto and educating them about ways to protect their health and the lake. These summer programs provide invaluable work experience for talented young people and help charities deliver more services to more citizens.
4. Family foundations
Did you know that family foundations are the biggest supporters of swimmable water programs? These individuals understand how important waterways are to local communities and put their money where their hearts are. If you saw the recent Minister of the Environment decision that will bring wet weather alerts and bypass updates to Toronto, joined our Rec Waters TO Facebook page, read any of our articles and FAQs on sewage and stormwater, or used Swim Guide to find a beach, then you can thank a family foundation like the Coral and Bill Martin Family Foundation and The John and Pat McCutcheon Charitable Foundation.
5. The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change review team
Speaking of the Minister’s decision, you’ll be able to boat or swim with greater confidence in Toronto next year. The team at the Ministry that reviewed our concerns about Toronto’s sewage bypasses and the lack of public consultation spent the better part of the last year figuring out how to protect your interests. They decided that Toronto residents should be alerted when wet weather is likely to affect water quality. They also decided that the public should be informed when sewage treatment plant bypasses occur.
Because of their work, and the Minister’s decision, every summer from this day forward will be a more swimmable summer.