Looking at freshwater from a fresh perspective: our intern’s story

Our sustainable development intern, Emelia, recently travelled back to her hometown in Northern Ontario for the week. While she was there, she tested the water at one of her favourite lakes, and experienced something that will forever change the way she sees water in her hometown. 

Check out her story below!

Emelia out on a hike with her freshwater explorer kit!

“Some of my fondest memories involve spending summer days at Gillies Lake in Timmins, Ontario. Located in the heart of the city, the lake has a beach on one side, a wakeboarding park on another, a spot where you can rent kayaks and stand-up paddle boards, and more. Needless to say, there’s just about something for everyone at Gillies Lake, which is probably why it is so popular among Timmins folk. The lake also has a walking trail that goes all the way around it, and since the town is so small, it’s pretty much impossible to take a walk on that trail without running into someone that you know! 

A few weeks ago, I went back to Timmins to visit my family and friends for the week. Our monthly testing day just so happened to fall during this time, so I decided to bring my younger sister to Gillies Lake with me to do some water testing. I had never tested there before, so I was really curious to see what my results would look like.

When my sister and I got to the lake, me carrying my testkit and her walking our dog, I approached the water and saw something that I didn’t expect to see. The area surrounding the lake was as vibrant as ever, but the lake water itself looked a bit murkier than I remembered. Was the lake water always like this, and had I just never realized it before? I didn’t know. What I realized, though, was that since I was there to test the water, I was looking at this ecosystem in an entirely new way; I was paying closer attention to my surroundings, and I was analyzing and assessing the water rather than simply using it for my own enjoyment. I noticed that my sister seemed to be looking at the water a bit differently, too. She’s only 17, and isn’t a Water Rangers employee, but I could tell that she was feeling something similar to what I was feeling, which was a renewed sense of connection to this waterbody that we both know and love so much. 

Murky water at Gillies Lake

As we were sitting there, fiddling with our sample cup and taking pictures of our dog Autumn next to the water, we were approached by an old friend of mine and her adorable toddler. I hadn’t seen this friend in years, and we probably wouldn’t have said more than a quick hello to one another had it not been for the fact that I had this bright blue kit with me. My friend asked what it was, and I explained to her that it was a water testing kit, full of tools that I was using to gain a sense of how healthy the water is. My friend then remarked, “it’s not looking so great today, don’t you find? I’m interested to see what your results say!”. Wow, another moment of connection, I thought to myself. Not only between us and the water, but between me and my friend, too. 

My dog, Autumn, next to my testkit

Since I was testing the water at Gillies Lake for the first time, and since data about the health of Gillies Lake isn’t currently posted anywhere in an open, accessible way, I couldn’t tell if my results were normal or not. I would have to test there regularly in order to collect baseline water quality data, which is something I definitely plan on doing every time I go home, which is usually around once a month. 

When I started this summer internship, I didn’t expect that it would lead me to have an experience like this, but I am so glad that it did. I sincerely hope that everyone who tests the water in their community gets to have an experience like this, which is one that results in them feeling connected to their community in ways that they never could have anticipated.”

Do you have a story like this? Let us know! We would love to hear about it.