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Kat Kavanagh, Meredith Brown, and Meaghan Murphy from the Ottawa Riverkeeper. Photo courtesy of Water Rangers.

Hub Ottawa: Water Rangers helps people take action to protect our local water

By Andrew Monro on January 26, 2017

Andrew Monro is Apt613’s correspondent at Impact Hub Ottawa, writing about the many innovators that call Hub home. Hub is a co-working space at 71 Bank Street for projects with a positive local and global impact.

“We want to be an organization that encourages people to learn about their world and to take action to become its stewards.”

Kat Kavanagh cares a lot about water. As Executive Director of Water Rangers, Kat and her team have made it their mission to inform people about the state of their local water, and provide tools to learn and share information through their app.

Photo from the Mississippi Conservation Authority Lake Monitoring Program, courtesy of Water Rangers.

Photo from the Mississippi Conservation Authority Lake Monitoring Program, courtesy of Water Rangers.

Water Rangers isn’t like most nonprofits: while many environmental organizations are focused on community engagement, Water Rangers is about helping people by providing them with the tools they need to gain information, share their knowledge with others, and take action to care for Canada’s waterways.

Started in 2015 by developers and designers, Water Rangers began developing tools to collect and analyze data related to the health of waterways. By October 2016, they had collected over 16,000 observations, from 231 users of 33 different groups, covering 896 water monitoring locations.

At the heart of their work is the Water Rangers’ flagship app. The cross-platform compatible app allows users to view and upload information about bodies of water near them.

This includes water quality testing, information about local wildlife, including invasive species, data about environmental problems (pollution, shoreline garbage, algae blooms), and information about local groups, organizations, and associations that provide data and have an interest in monitoring and maintaining local water bodies.

Co-founder Mark Dabrowski. Photo courtesy of Water Rangers.

Co-founder Mark Dabrowski. Photo courtesy of Water Rangers.

Water Rangers’ work has proven to be an important and valuable contribution in the Ottawa Valley and beyond. At end of 2016, they finished a cycle of funding from the Trillium Foundation and Ottawa Wave Makers, a micro-grant program run through a partnership between WWF Canada and Impact Hub Ottawa, which allowed them to develop and launch the app.

This year, the City of Ottawa has given the organization a round of funding to further support development of their app, particularly being able to use it while offline. This is particularly valuable for the City, which has water monitoring records going back over a decade from over 130 monitoring stations taken each week, as the app enables people to easily access and use their extensive data. They are also grateful to others that have supported their work, including Ottawa Riverkeeper, the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority, Rideau Valley Conservation Authority, and Carleton University.

Photo courtesy of Water Rangers.

Photo courtesy of Water Rangers.

Water Rangers are now seeking other NGOs and organizations to partner with that are doing work related to water conservation and stewardship. They would also like to create an online store to sell water testing kits to anyone interested, and provide training on how to use them. They are also constantly looking for more data about water, and are always interested in talking to lake and river associations, conservation authorities, schools (water is a featured topic in the Ontario Grade 8 curriculum), Scouts Canada and Girl Guide groups, and camp and park authorities.