Honouring extraordinary contributions to water protection in the Canadian Great Lakes & Beyond






Nominations are now open for the 2023 Water Watchers Awards!


→ Nominate an extraordinary water protector here! ←

⟡ Deadline for nominations is March 11th, 2023 @ 11:59PM ⟡



The annual Hugh Whiteley Lifetime Achievement Award celebrates the activism, advocacy, and dedication of remarkable individuals protecting water in the Canadian Great Lakes Basin.  Each year, the Water Watchers honour one person whose passion & years of contributions to water protection transcend the ordinary, making a deep & lasting impact to water while inspiring the next generation of water protectors to consider what a lifetime of service to water could mean, create, and preserve. In particular, we want to celebrate those who  'think global, act local' whose service to water protection has a local or place-based component within their local watershed. The first recipient was Dr. Hugh Whiteley himself, and now the award expands to honour more of the lifetime contributions of extraordinary water advocates in the Great Lakes Basin of Canada. To support and expand the legacy of award winners, a donation is made on their behalf to the water-related cause of their choice.  In 2021, Josephine Mandamin Baa was nominated for the Hugh Whiteley Lifetime Achievement Award. Immediately we recognized that Josephine’s dedication stands separate from this award and required a category of its own. In considering Josephine’s contributions to water protection, we reflected on the ripples she made with her words, actions, stories, and more. More than ripples, we realized she had created waves with her life’s action and dedication to water, so we decided to name the award Waves of Change. The recipient is one whose influence has changed the way in which those touching water protection view their work. A recipient gives inspiration, brings new meaning to dedication, elevates the collective conversation, infuses water protection beyond any particular locale, and, so much more. In recognition of the inspiration we all draw from the work, the perspective, and the life of Josephine Mandamin Baa, we created the Waves of Change award.



Nominations Process

Water Watchers accepts nominations year around for anyone who dedication to water in the Great Lakes area of Canada and beyond. Our only qualifying criterion is for the Hugh Whiteley Lifetime Achievement Award, which requires at least 20 years of service in water protection. Anyone can be nominated for the Waves of Change Award.

To nominate an extraordinary water protector,  fill out this form.

Semi-finalists are selected and reviewed by a panel of judges. The annual recipients will be announced near World Water Day each year and celebrated with a live event held online.



2022 Waves of Change Award Winner - Josephine Mandamin Baa

Through her many Sacred Water Walks, Josephine reminded us all that Water is a living being and the blood of our Mother the Earth and all of her creatures. We must first love, honour and respect her, and we can all do this by singing to her, by speaking to her and by listening deeply to her.

In 2003, she began her water walks and walked more than 25,000 kilometers, driven by her deep concern & care for the lakes and rivers across Turtle Island. She walked the entire shoreline of all five Great Lakes multiple times. Even as her body called for rest, she was tireless in her dedication to the source of life and lived her role as a water protector fiercely while inspiring thousands of others to join her in walking for, caring for, and protecting water.

For all this and more, we honour Josephine and recognize her continuing legacy for water protection.



2022 HWLAA Winner - Helen Mills

Helen Mills is Founder and Co-Director of Lost Rivers (Toronto Green Community) and Founder of RAINscapeTO and Rivers Rising, as well as numerous other water and watershed-related initiatives. Helen has been a tireless champion of the environment, native plants and habitats, ecological education and, in particular, watersheds in Ontario, particularly in the GTA. Helen’s quiet leadership, foresight and dedication to our Lost River Watersheds, as well as her dream of Blue Green cities in which water, landscape and all peoples live in healthy cohesion, have inspired thousands and been utterly profound in helping people appreciate their intimate connections to the water systems that form an essential part of their lives.

With in person or self guided walks, she launched the “Lost River Walks” to connect people with rivers and landscapes to nurture both love and understanding of these sacred gifts that each of us has been charged with caring for.

For all this and more, we honour Helen and use her continuing example to remember we are all called to this legacy of passion, dedication, and service for water.  



2021 HWLAA Winner - Norah Chaloner

Norah Chaloner has contributed to water protection through various campaigns against pipelines, mega quarries, development, water privatization, and water bottling, to name a few. Moreover, she has continually pushed the education, engagement, and empowerment of others to find their own voice in environmental advocacy. These contributions are too numerous to list, but include earnest action through the Council of Canadians (Guelph Chapter), the Yorklands Green Hub, the Guelph Urban Forest Friends, and the Wellington Water Watchers, while also working closely with activists, professors, students, and community members across the Great Lakes Basin to sustain and protect water, both above & below the ground. 

Never one to grab the mic or the spotlight, Norah has an utterly inspiring way of connecting with people, bringing them together and supporting them in taking action. Through the years, Norah has made a deep and lasting impact to water while inspiring successive generations of water protectors. Hers has truly been a life of extraordinary water advocacy and activism in the Great Lakes Basin.

For all this and more, we honour Norah and use her continuing example to remember we are all called to this legacy of passion, dedication, and service for water.  


2020 HWLAA Winner - Dr. Hugh Whiteley

Dr. Hugh Whiteley has and continues to dedicate his life to advocate for the waters of the Guelph area – the rivers, the river valleylands, the wetlands and of course the groundwater. Not only has Hugh been the Water Watchers' go-to hydrologist for the 15 years of WWW’s existence, but he has also been an inspiration to many through his tireless commitment to the protection of these natural features that are essential in maintaining a healthy ecology for all life that call these riparian areas home.

Hugh speaks often of the need to go beyond a modern, human-centric worldview embedded in maligned policies and poor political decisions that mistreat life-giving waters. He understands that our best thriving, and that of all ecology, will happen when we work within the intricacies and balance of natural cycles. And although meticulous and relentless in his advocacy, Hugh has always managed to do this work with a twinkle in his eye and lots of great stories.

For all this and more, we honour Hugh and use his continuing example to remember we are all called to this legacy of passion, dedication, and service for water.  




Our awards are looking for fiscal sponsors for future years. If you personally or your organization have been inspired by the lifetime of teaching and influence of award winners, or if you'd like to honour the legacy of extraordinary water protectors, please contact the Water Watchers to become a sponsor.