21 Good News Stories About Water You May Have Missed

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These days, it feels like our newsfeeds, TV screens and radio waves are overflowing with disheartening stories about environmental degradation, the climate crisis, species extinctions and all the ways human actions are harming the environment. Sometimes it can feel like the entire world is about to fall apart.

Water is increasingly at the centre of many of these stories, and it’s no wonder - water plays a central role in human health and the health of our planet. Water is also directly connected to the climate crisis.

At the Water Docs Film Festival, our mission is to cultivate a love of water and inspire action to protect it. One of our supporters recently reached out to us on Facebook asking for more inspiring news stories, so we've compiled a list of all the recent wins for water protection around the world. This list features everything from efforts to reduce plastic production to protecting marine species to taking action on the climate crisis - here are 21 positive stories that showcase the ways humans are taking responsibility to become part of the solution.

1) First Nations, Governments agree to bring salmon back to Upper Columbia River

Salmon have been blocked from their traditional migration routes for 80 years since the introduction of dams to the system. The loss of the salmon run devastated Indigenous communities upstream that relied on the fish as a food source and cultural touchstone:

“So at a time of global crisis, climate change, and environmental degradation, we now have an international good-news story, bringing salmon back in a sustainable way for food security purposes for generations to come, and we can do that five-fold in the basin here.”

"The potential for the recovery of the system is phenomenal. If they succeed in overcoming the hurdles — and the dams — Johnson says up to two-to-three million fish could be coming in and out of the system in the decades to come." Read more

2) UN report says Indigenous sovereignty could save the planet

"While humans have “significantly altered” about three quarters of land-based environments and two-thirds marine environments, these trends have been less severe or avoided altogether in areas held or managed by Indigenous peoples and local communities...

...This means that Earth’s resources are protected in areas preserved for and by Indigenous people and managed by communities that enjoy some autonomy from global economic forces and tend to use resources sustainably.

...Indigenous people could contribute to global sustainability efforts if provided legal and political rights to use and steward the lands they know so well.

...The U.N. often talks in terms of global sustainability “commitments” and “goals” shared across the world’s governments and shaped by a global climate crisis, but its latest report is an important reminder that the “transformation” needed to save the planet is being led by those most connected to it, from the ground up." Read more

3) Irish teenager wins global science award for removing microplastics from water

"Ferreira used ferrofluids, a combination of oil and magnetite powder, and magnets to extract microplastics from water. 

In 1,000 tests, Ferreira was able to remove over 87% of microplastics from water samples."

“The method used was most effective on fibres obtained from a washing machine and least effective on polypropylene plastics,” he said. Read more

4) Sobeys to remove plastic bags from all stores next year as grocers go green

BIG NEWS! More proof that pressure from individuals who are raising their voices together to take #ActionForWater CAN make a difference:

"The chains — most of which charge a nominal fee for plastic bags — are facing pressure from increasingly eco-conscious consumers to do more to eliminate their plastic-centric packaging...The change will eliminate 225 million bags used annually at Sobeys 255 stores." Read more

5) Coca-Cola and Pepsico are breaking free from plastics trade group

This is proof positive that when we raise our voices together and support groups who organize effectively (in this case Greenpeace International), we can make big companies change their behaviour:

"Companies understand that they cannot publicly say they want to end plastic pollution, while financially supporting an association that lobbies for our continued reliance on throwaway plastics. This is a victory for every person that spoke up and asked Coca-Cola and PepsiCo to put their money where their mouths are and tell the Plastics Industry Association to stop preventing plastic reduction efforts." - John Hocevar, Greenpeace USA Oceans Campaign Director. Read more

6) Trapped migrating salmon to be flown over Fraser River rock slide in B.C.

What do you call a group of salmon in a helicopter? A school of flying fish! 

Jokes aside, this is what taking #ActionForWater looks like. Officials have also implemented fishing restrictions to help lessen pressure on salmon stocks threatened by the slide.

"Tens of thousands of migrating salmon stuck behind a rock slide on the Fraser River in a remote part of British Columbia will be flown over the barrier by helicopter...First Nations, conservationists, fishers, officials and others are all worried that if the fish can't get upstream there could be a permanent loss of Chinook salmon populations." Read more

7) Jaden Smith donates second mobile water filtration system to Flint

While not a solution to the systemic problem of access to clean drinking water, this sure beats shipping in plastic bottles of water to areas in crisis:

“Bottles of water aren’t the most efficient thing all the time so we created this water filtration system and you can fill up bigger containers of water. People can come with five or 10 gallon drums and fill up for free in 60 seconds at Trinity First Baptist Church.” Read more

8) Addressing sea level rise through citizen science

This beautiful project from California Coastal Commission demonstrates the importance of coming together as a collective to solve the problems associated with the climate crisis. Years of local knowledge and a close relationship with one's geography is being harnessed to help track sea level rise:

"The sheer scale of the problem makes it difficult to track for scientists and lawmakers; researchers simply can’t be everywhere. In California, advocacy groups have found a solution: citizen scientists from impacted neighborhoods can track rise themselves, and their findings gathered into public-facing data bases that can be utilized by thought leaders to understand the state of sea level rise in their community...The King Tides Project and those like it are an opportunity to increase scientific literacy and foster critical thinking about climate change through the lens of local needs." Read more

9) Tree planting ‘has mind-blowing potential’ to tackle climate crisis

While at first glance this is not directly connected to water protection, anything that mitigates the impacts of climate change is taking action for water. Water is inextricably linked to the climate crisis.

“Research shows a trillion trees could be planted to capture huge amounts of carbon dioxide…The analysis found there are 1.7bn hectares of treeless land on which 1.2tn native tree saplings would naturally grow. That area is about 11% of all land and equivalent to the size of the US and China combined. Tropical areas could have 100% tree cover, while others would be more sparsely covered, meaning that on average about half the area would be under tree canopy.” Read more

10) ‘Game-changer’: NSW scheme collects 2 billion containers in 19 months

Who is ready for Canada to implement a container deposit (Return & Earn) scheme? 🙋‍♀️🙋‍♂️ While not the only solution to the waste crisis, it certainly helps divert single-use plastic items away from landfill and waterways.

"It's great because it's reducing litter out of the streets and it’s also going back into the economy to produce new goods. It's the single biggest litter reduction initiative in the state's history." Read more

11) P.E.I. becomes the first province to ban plastic bags

"Prince Edward Island has become the first province to introduce a ban on single-use plastic bags…The Plastic Bag Reduction Act officially came into effect on Canada Day and prohibits businesses from providing single-use plastic bags at checkout. They are instead to offer paper bags or higher quality reusable bags." Read more

12) This mall just became the first in Canada to ban single-use plastic straws

“As part of the launch of Waste Reduction week taking place in October, Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre is set to eliminate single-use plastic straws.

Shoppers will be able to receive straws that are BPI certified — meaning they’re compostable — and there’s always the option to bring your own reusable one along for your day of shopping.” Read more

13) Ropeless fishing gear in development as second right whale found dead in Gulf of St. Lawrence

“While traditional fishing equipment drops a trap to the ocean floor and uses a rope to connect with the buoy floating on the surface, the ropeless fishing gear keeps the buoy underwater with the trap…When the fisherman come back to retrieve their catch they send a signal down from their vessel which activates the release, allowing the buoy to rise to the surface with the rope and then they can use their existing gear to haul that gear to their vessel.” Read more

14) Support for balloon ban

East Hampton Town and Village is now fining people for “intentional balloon release” (good luck enforcing that). What we really need, of course, are bans on such harmful materials, but the fact that the conversation is starting is really good news. And the town has voiced support for banning them altogether.

“To coincide with its bans on plastic bags and plastic straws and polystyrene, the Southampton Town Board is now looking to prohibit the intentional release of balloons. East Hampton Town and Village banned the release of balloons earlier this year.”

“Given how frequently we actually use balloons in comparison to other single-use plastics, it’s shocking the amount that end up on our beaches. Community members need to show up and speak up to end balloon pollution altogether." Read more

15) Vermont adopts the most comprehensive plastics ban in U.S.

This bill received overwhelming bipartisan support and no complaints from the impacted businesses - nothing like plastic waste to unite us across all walks of life!

Vermont is the first to ban all four of these products - bags, straws, drink stirrers and foam food packaging - in a single bill. It does not, however, include plastic veggie bags. Read more

16) Modernized fisheries act a historic victory for fisheries rebuilding and sharks

The ban on shark fin imports was the part of Bill C-68 that made a big splash in news headlines yesterday - but it wasn’t the only amazing thing the modernized fisheries act has done. The act also includes:

- requirement for rebuilding plans of depleted fish populations (for the first time since its inception in 1868) 

- recognizes Indigenous knowledge as a requirement under law to protect the health of the fisheries

- incorporates modern fisheries management practices, such as the precautionary and ecosystem-based approaches

- restores important habitat protection measures

“Today is a great day for our oceans. The overhauled Fisheries Act has the potential to be one of the most transformative things that has happened for our oceans in many years. We thank Fisheries Minister Wilkinson and former Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc for prioritizing rebuilding fish populations. The Act now lays a strong foundation to support healthy oceans for generations to come.” Read more

17) Filtering micro plastics from your machines: Ontario town to test potential solution for keeping micro plastics out of the Great Lakes

Absolutely incredible that washing machines have not always had filters built in considering the damage microfibres do to waterways. But better late than never! Looking forward to seeing the results of this study:

"Erdle and her team will test water at the town’s waste water treatment plant before and after the filters are installed. The study will run for two years and results will be publicly available. Erdle suspects that because Parry Sound has a population of just 6,400, the decrease in microfiber concentrations will be noticeable.

While the ideal solution would be to not manufacture synthetic clothing in the first place, Erdle said, burying washing machine lint in the landfill at least keeps it out of our waterways.

She and Georgian Bay Forever project coordinator Cassie Weston hope their findings will create greater awareness and eventually lead to the mandatory use of washing machine filters." Read more

18) Holiday Inn owner to ditch mini toiletries from 5,000 hotels

“InterContinental Hotels Group is ditching miniature shampoo, conditioner and body-wash bottles across its 5,000-plus sites worldwide to reduce plastic waste.

The owner of the Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza and InterContinental chains will switch to bulk dispensers, refillable bottles and ceramic containers by the end of 2021.

Hotels accounting for a third of the InterContinental group, including some Holiday Inn Express sites in the Americas, Kimpton in London, the Six Senses resort spas and newer brands Voco, Even and Avid have successfully switched to bulk dispensers or refillable containers.” Read more

19) Canada unveils plan to ban single-use plastics as early as 2021

Say goodbye to single-use plastic straws, cotton swabs, drink stirrers, plates, cutlery, balloon sticks and potentially even plastic bottles 👋

“How do you explain dead whales washing up on beaches around the world, their stomachs jam-packed with plastic bags, or albatross chicks photographed off the coast of Hawaii, their bodies filled to the brim with plastic they’ve mistaken for food?

As parents, we’re at a point where we take our kids to the beach and we have to search out a patch of sand that isn’t littered with straws, styrofoam or bottles. That’s a problem.” - Justin Trudeau Read more

20) New discovery - “Microfragmenting” can save the coral reefs

“That was a moment that I realized that it was very possible in my lifetime that we could restore thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of corals in just a few years. But I’m helping and assisting people from other countries to do the same thing. So realistically we can get to that million mark in just one or two years from now.

This is now a new discovery that can give real hope for our coral reefs that has never been there before. So I postponed my retirement until I see a million corals replanted back on the reef.” - Dr. David Vaughan Read more

21) Right whales return to Canadian waters early and bring 7 reasons for hope with them

On their migration route back into Canadian waters, the North Atlantic Right Whale pod was spotted with 7 new calves last week! This is big news as the critically endangered whales gave birth to no calves at all last year:

"Were we lucky? Or were the protection measures really the right ones? I think it's a little bit of both. By working together it appears that we are making a difference for these species in Canadian waters compared to what happened in 2017." - Moira Brown, senior scientist with the Canadian Whale Institute and Campobello Whale Rescue Team Read more