In the Fall of 2016, with support from the Royal Bank of Canada’s Blue Water Project, IISD-ELA launched a national essay contest entitled How can we improve Canada’s fresh water?


In celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary, coupled with the fact that Canada is home to 20 per cent of the world’s fresh water, this contest targeted high school students from grades 8-11 who were interested in savings our fresh water supply. Students were asked to present their ideas about the best ways we can continue to manage our fresh water sustainably for the next 150 years.


We were overwhelmed by the response we got. Students from across the country sent us exciting, innovative and unique ideas to help safeguard their local fresh water supplies. We learned about how we can collaborate to save Lake Erie, marry science and policy to protect Lake Winnipeg, and harness to power of citizen science to monitor the health of Canada’s fresh water.


We chose three winners to attend the eighth annual Canadian Water Summit in Toronto on June 22nd, 2017:



Congratulations to them, and to all those who took the time and effort to submit essays.



“I decided to enter this essay contest after I did some research and found out how endangered fresh water around the world actually is. I wanted to do my part in saving the lakes by coming up with some ideas to help improve the fresh water that is closest to me. On the trip, I had a lot of fun learning about what people are doing to help protect both fresh water and the environment and I am so grateful to the IISD-ELA for giving me this amazing opportunity!”

– Alexandra Ionita


Pauline Gerrard, Deputy Director of IISD-ELA, and I accompanied the students to Toronto. The three-day trip was jam-packed with enjoyable experiences and activities. For example, we had the opportunity to attend the Summits first Student and Young Professional Speed Mentoring Session. Here, special guests who work in the water sector engaged with the students by offering career insights, tips, and tricks. Mentors also gave the students advice while reflecting on what they would like to tell their high school selves, as well as things to keep in mind while they are completing high school and transitioning into university.


Throughout the Summit, we had the chance to listen to professionals from the water industry groups across all orders of government, manufacturing, industry, NGOs, and academia. Representatives from these groups explored several opportunities for collaboration through discussions on various topics of interests: fresh water technology and infrastructure, climate change, “blue economy” growth, the water gap in Indigenous communities, circular economy, and progressive policies.


For Emily, this informative experience has allowed her to see the science of fresh water in a new light “The Canadian Water Summit was such an eye opening event. Anyone can make a change if they care enough. All of us should be involved in making that change.”



During the Summit we were also fortunate enough to meet Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, Elizabeth Dowdeswell, who gave the students a great piece of advice. “Talk to people. Discuss solutions. Keep writing.”


“It is really an honour to be chosen as one of the winners for the IISD-ELA essay contest. The process of writing the essay was the real reward. The trip to Toronto is the icing on the cake!”

– Carl Dizon