CFCR would like to introduce Safe Drinking Water Foundation for our March edition of Friends of CFCR.
Safe Drinking Water Foundation was founded in 1998 with the original thought to help rural communities in developing countries in terms of safe drinking water. However, it was soon realized that we had a developing country right in our own backyard who needed access to safe drinking water - First Nations communities and, increasingly, rural communities. Therefore, the primary focus of Safe Drinking Water Foundation is to provide information about drinking water quality issues and solutions in rural and First Nations communities, and to deliver educational programs, including water testing kits, to schools starting in 2001. The mission of Safe Drinking Water Foundation is to educate the leaders of today and tomorrow about drinking water quality issues to realize our goal of safe drinking water being available to every Canadian.
What types of programs do you offer? What’s your most successful program?
We send water testing kits to schools across Canada, we have free educational programs available on our website, we have a massive amount of information about drinking water quality issues and solutions on our website, and we hold student action competitions wherein students learn about the source of their drinking water, educate others about the source of their drinking water, conserve water, and encourage others to conserve water. Our most successful program is Operation Water Drop - we have Elementary Operation Water Drop kits (for students in grades four to eight) and High School Operation Water Drop kits (for students in grades nine to twelve) available in both English and French. With the Elementary Operation Water Drop kits, students test their local drinking water and control water samples for eight different components and with the High School Operation Water Drop kits students test their local drinking water and four other water samples (control, urban, rural, and raw - or whichever samples they prefer to test) for 12 different components.
How have you seen your organization’s work make a difference?
Approximately half of a million students in over 3000 different Canadian schools have used our water testing kits in a hands-on manner since 2001. Students have: - Conserved water - Encouraged others to conserve water - Convinced their school to stop selling bottled water - Raised money for our organization - Taken projects they completed in their small, First Nations communities with our water testing kits to the Canada-Wide Science Fair - Spoken on their local radio stations about water quality issues after having used our kits - Toured their local water treatment plants and wastewater treatment facilities - Held community information nights - Collaborated on projects with their local watershed and environmental groups... and much more
What are any challenges or obstacles your organization has faced? How were they overcome?
Funding is always a challenge. We continue to seek funding from various sources, some years we receive more funding than others. Also, during 2020 when COVID-19 closed the schools, there were no schools to which to send kits - so we had to send them in the fall but, unfortunately, some of our test strips expired in the meantime so that was lost resources (we use them for demonstrations or give them to people who want to practice the steps before using the kits). Having a consistent, reliable assistant/Kit Coordinator is an ongoing challenge since our Kit Coordinator of many years (over 12 years) left our organization. Our main founder passed away in 2018 and our longtime Chair/Honourary Chair passed away in 2021 - we currently have five board members who help as much as they can.
What is something that you wish.more people knew about your organization?
I think I would rather have people know about the reason our organization exists than about our organization itself. At any given time, across Canada (a developed and very water-rich country!) there are about 900 drinking water advisories in effect. Some First Nations communities have been under boil water advisories for over two decades. In Canada, we have federal Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality rather than standards or regulations - these apply to First Nations communities and they are not legally enforceable as they are only guidelines. Also, in some Saskatoon elementary schools as little as 4.8% of the students know where their tap water comes from and when someone does not know where their tap water comes from they cannot protect the source and they do not care about water conservation. Learn about the source of your drinking water! About our organization... that our one and only office is in Saskatoon, that we have been a registered Canadian charity for over 23 years, that we are a small organization but we have sent water testing kits to over 3000 different Canadian schools since 2001 and educated approximately half of a million Canadian students.
How can the community help your organization reach its goals?
Donate, sponsor kits (by donating), volunteer, raise awareness, teach your kids and others about water issues, if you know that your child's class will be doing water testing ask the teacher if they would like your help.
What volunteer opportunities are there within your organization?
We have volunteer opportunities such as finding water facts of the week, finding water videos for our Watch It Wednesdays on Facebook, writing new fact sheets, helping to translate or revise our French materials if the person is bilingual (English and French, preferably first language French), and there may be opportunities to help with assembling water testing kit materials. We are also currently looking for 7 environmental organizations/teachers/interested citizens to help with collecting data on the river water and tap water in Saskatoon - TDS, pH, and temperature. We would provide all the necessary materials.
What about fundraising or donating opportunities?
To donate, please visit https://www.safewater.org/donate Official donation receipts for income tax purposes are provided for all donations of $3 or more. People can also see the map of the schools that are on the waiting list for sponsored kits here: https://www.safewater.org/ and purchase one or more water testing kits for a school.