Surrey and Merritt rely on Stewardship Groups

The good news, as noted in The Role of Public Groups in Protecting and Restoring Freshwater Habitats in British Columbia… is that “there has been an upsurge of public involvement in the protection and rehabilitation of B.C. rivers and streams, and an evolution toward a more collective engagement in the management of these resources.”

Co-authors of the 2001 report, Dr. Marvin Rosenau and Mark Angelo, go as far as to say that, “government institutions, frameworks, and agencies at all levels in B.C. are no longer capable of protecting and restoring freshwater environments on their own. Ultimately, the active involvement of public groups and non-government organizations, rather than relying on governments acting on their own, may be the only effective way to save or restore many of British Columbia’s remaining freshwater ecosystems….”

Already there have been some remarkable successes. There are increasing numbers of instances where individuals and community groups have passionately embraced the need to refurbish local waterways. Citizens and community groups have started to show a ‘sense of ownership’ of local rivers and riparian areas and have become directly involved to a much greater degree than has been seen in the past.”

As a note of caution, however, “there are some public groups that have chosen, on occasion, to pursue a “go-it-alone” approach and have decided against working closely with other pertinent organizations or government agencies. This can often alienate individuals and groups that might otherwise be allies, and can sometimes do more harm than good. The most successful public groups in the province have taken a more inclusive approach to their work, and the characteristic has been one of the keys to their success.”

The not-so-good news, as identified in a 2004 survey conducted by the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection and the BCWWA’s Water Sustainability Committee, is that despite the obvious benefits of working with stewardship groups to promote water conservation, only 26 percent of responding utilities are doing so.

 One doing so very successfully is the City of Surrey with its Salmon Habitat Restoration Program (SHaRP). Since its inception in 1996, the SHaRP program has expanded from an instream focused program to one focusing on watershed stewardship principles within Surrey. SHaRP also employs career-oriented high school and post secondary students. Activities and projects undertaken by these students focus on watershed enhancement and the formation of partnerships with local stewardship groups, landowners, and businesses.

Some of the projects undertaken by SHaRP include:

  • agricultural stewardship
  • benthic analysis
  • community plantings
  • instream and riparian area restoration
  • public education and community outreach
  • sensitive habitat inventory mapping
  • storm drain marking
  • water quality monitoring.

Funded by a wide variety of public- and private-sector organizations, SHaRP is truly a community effort. This is apparent not only in the cooperative work of the SHaRP teams within Surrey but also in the support necessary for the program to continue. Many local institutions and groups endorse SHaRP. The City of Surrey has always been the main financial contributor to the SHaRP program with varying degrees of additional support coming form the federal and provincial governments. The City partners with many local organizations, including schools, businesses, non-profit groups, foundations, and provincial ministries.

As stated by Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum, “The SHaRP program is unique among B.C. municipalities. Its size, its integrated watershed approach, and its commitment to career-oriented and leadership training for local youth, contribute to the continuing success of this environmental program, making it a proven winner.”

The City of Merritt is another proactive community that’s benefiting from partnerships with stewardship groups. It has worked closely with the Nicola Valley Watershed Roundtable and the Nicola Valley Watershed Stewardship Strategy to enhance the municipality’s water conservation efforts. Merritt CAO Jennifer Bridarolli welcomes the advantages of having stewardship groups as part of the decision-making process. “It ensures broader communication about the City and its objectives. Information- sharing is key if these programs are to be successful.”

Bridarolli highly recommends the partnering approach, which she says, “ensures that all groups are striving toward a common vision.”

For more information about SHaRP contact Trevor Welton at 604-591-4321 or

For more information about Merritt’s programs, contact Jennifer Bridarolli at 250-378-4224 or