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International Joint Commission partners with Watermark Project to protect the Great Lakes using storytelling

The IJC is the most recent and highest profile addition to the Watermark Project’s growing list of collectors and contributors.

(June 21, 2016) -- The International Joint Commission (IJC) is proud to partner with the Lake Ontario Waterkeeper to collect and publish a special Great Lakes Watermark collection.

Waterkeeper, a Canadian environmental charity, launched the “Watermark Project” in January at as a response to declining water quality and habitat loss across North America.

“The Watermark Project was born out of a need to protect the Great Lakes basin. Our freshwater paradise is not as “great” as it should be,” says says environmental lawyer Mark Mattson.

Recognizing the need to do a better job safeguarding people’s love - and need - for their local waterways, Mattson and the team at Waterkeeper set about creating this archive.

Contributors simply name their favourite body of water and submit a story describing a moment or time when that waterbody influenced their life. Stories range from happy memories of fishing with family to descriptions of polluted waters and disconnection from the natural environment.

In the future, researchers will be able to use this information to better understand where people are swimming, drinking, and fishing from. This information can also be used to inform law and policy decisions that will better protect waterways.

The IJC is an 103 year-old institution at the forefront of protecting the Great Lakes and all Canada-US boundary waters. They are a special, bi-national organization that sets the tone for managing waterbodies shared by multiple countries. By creating a Great Lakes Watermark collection, people’s personal, emotional and cultural connections to the lakes, and ways they use and value these precious bodies of water will be archived.

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“It’s a simple, but powerful first step: telling and recording Great Lakes water stories is key to making them swimmable drinkable and fishable again.”
-- Waterkeeper and environmental lawyer, Mark Mattson

Quick Facts

  • Early Watermark contributors include: photographer Barbara Cole, poet Dani Couture, editor Emily Keeler,, musician Josh Finlayson, Olympian Karen Percy Lowe, NHL's Kevin Lowe, musician Sarah Harmer, NHL's Steve Shutt, writer Tanis Rideout, NHL/writer Terry Ryan, and writer Todd Babiak.
  • Founding partners for Watermark Project include Fraser Riverkeeper, North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper, and Ottawa Riverkeeper.
  • Contributing organizations also include McKeil Marine, RBC, and University of Toronto (Department of Anthropology).
  • Creation of the Watermark Project archive was funded with a $100,000 RBC Blue Water Project Leadership Grant.
  • The Watermark Project is built on Heroku and managed by a custom Salesforce app, made possible by the Salesforce for Nonprofits program.
  • The Watermark Project was developed by Swim Drink Fish. They are a Canadian charity helping communities prosper by safeguarding swimmable, drinkable, fishable waters. It is home to Swim Guide, the popular beach information service, and Great Lakes Guide, a guide to connect people to the waters in the Great Lakes region by promoting beaches, parks, things to do, and of course, the lakes themselves.

Social Media Summaries

Introductions: The Watermark Project is an online archive where people like you can register their favourite bodies of water. Share a story, and help ensure your waterbody is protected for generations to come. The Watermark Project is online at
Call to Action: Go to the Watermark Project to register your favourite waterbody and share a story:
E.g., IJC Chair Lana Pollack’s Watermark includes Lake Michigan, Michigan Where is your favourite waterbody? Use #mywatermark.

Hashtag: #mywatermark and #swimdrinkfish


Browse Watermarks

Lake Volta, Ghana
Isaac Nyameke
Lake Superior, USA
Nancy Langston
Niagara River, USA
Es Jimenez
Lake Ontario, ON
The Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, OC, OOnt
Ottawa River, ON
Catherine McKenna
Lake Ontario, ON
Gord Downie