07/09/2014 12:25 EDT | Updated 09/08/2014 05:59 EDT

Getting to Know Toronto's Largest Watershed

On Canadian Rivers Day, I joined my neighbours to learn more about Toronto's largest watershed, the Humber, thanks to the Loblaw Water Fund.

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On Canadian Rivers Day, I joined my neighbours to learn more about Toronto's largest watershed, the Humber, thanks to the Loblaw Water Fund.

On a cloudy Sunday afternoon in June, I had the chance to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the designation of the Humber as a Canadian Heritage River, along with dozens of Torontonians. It was a great event, with everything from First Nations traditional drumming to snake demonstrations, thanks to a range of groups that support the watershed, including Futurewatch Environment Development and Education Partners and the Toronto Region Conservation Authority.

Futurewatch was there to help engage a diverse group of local people in the issues facing the Humber, and to help familiarize newcomers to the area -- many of whom are also new to Canada -- with the many wonderful ways they can enjoy the river. WWF is supporting Futurewatch's valuable efforts through the Loblaw Water Fund, enabling the group to produce more materials in a multitude of languages, giving them a chance to engage a broader community.

The first step to caring for our waters is knowing and using them. As a long-time resident of Toronto's west end, I've had lots of opportunities to enjoy my backyard river, including in a canoe. In a country so rich with beautiful watersheds, every Canadian should have a chance to connect with the rivers and lakes that dominate our landscape -- especially in cities, where connections with nature can be scarce. That's why WWF is working to help more Canadian urbanites appreciate, enjoy, celebrate and care for the natural world around them. It's work that Loblaw Companies Limited -- a champion of environmental engagement -- is very committed to, the foundation of an ongoing partnership with WWF-Canada that has helped mobilize over one-million Canadians to actively engage with nature.

The Loblaw Water Fund, which selected its first round of grantees this past spring, will support projects like this through funds from Loblaw's charge-for-plastic shopping bag program. The fund will help ensure that Canada's waters become and stay healthy, making them available for all to use and enjoy. It will also help Canadians feel invested in their local waters by giving them opportunities to participate in caring for these rivers, lakes and wetlands.

We all have a role to play in ensuring our waters are healthy, and the Humber is a great example of that; earlier this year, WWF's Freshwater Health Assessments rated the Humber's health as fair. For an urban river with a troubled history, that's a major achievement, and one that has taken commitment and effort from a range of groups, shaping policy and promoting investment in the river's health. It's an achievement that would not have been possible without the support of the community. That is exactly why we need to continue getting Canadians of all backgrounds and all locations engaged in their local waters -- because we can only secure a healthy future for our waters and our planet when we all work together.