We’re entering a new era, one that will be defined by our relationship with water.

WWF-Canada’s Generation Water Tech Challenge is helping bring ideas to help Canada's freshwater health to life.

The Generation Water Tech Challenge submission period is now closed.

Be sure to check out our Water Tech Innovators

© Oliver Woods / WWF-Canada


Safeguarding Canada's watersheds is among the greatest challenges of our time. Contemporary pressures including growing population, increasing demand for food and energy, urbanization and climate change are mounting and compounding. From flooding to droughts, climate impacts are felt through our water more than in any other way.

© Living Lakes Canada / WWF-Canada

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What we know about Canada's water

Human activities are stressing Canada’s watersheds and a lack of comprehensive, open access water data means little to no knowledge of how those threats are impacting watershed health. This data and knowledge will become crucial for making decisions in a warming world.

In 2017, WWF-Canada completed the first-ever national assessment of Canada’s watersheds. We examined four indicators of health and seven indicators of threat to assign overall scores to each watershed. Where there was not enough data available, the watershed was considered data deficient.


sub-watersheds are data deficient



sub-watersheds received a less than good flow score



sub-watersheds have poor or fair water quality



sub-watersheds are data deficient for benthic macro-invertebrates



sub-watersheds have high or very high threats. Pollution, habitat fragmentation and habitat loss are the most common.



sub-watersheds are experiencing moderate or high threats from climate change

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See WWF-Canada's Watershed Reports for a complete status report on Canada's freshwater ecosystems.

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A total of $75,000 was granted to the Generation Water Tech Challenge award recipients. Each also received a space in CSI's Climate Ventures: Earth Tech Accelerator program.

Meet the award recipients of the Generation Water Tech Challenge

Water Rangers

Empowering citizens and scientists to learn about, test and act to protect our waterways



Digitizing microbial activity in real-time


Clean Nature

Tackling the issue of road salt with artificial intelligence


CANN Forecast

Leveraging data for sustainable decision making in water management


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We are seeking bold and transformative solutions to help achieve our goal of ensuring all of Canada's freshwater is healthy.

WWF-Canada's 2017 Watershed Reports identified two priority problems for Canada's fresh water: high threats to urban watersheds and missing data across the country. These priorities are represented in our two problem briefs. We want to move beyond good ideas to tangible solutions that will have meaningful impact for water. Our hope is that by using new technologies, or finding novel approaches for existing methods, we will discover previously unexplored paths towards healthy freshwater. We welcome varied technology-enabled solutions, using hardware and/or software to achieve conservation outcomes. Explore more about each of the problem briefs below.

© Staffan Widstrand / WWF

Brief 1

Urban communities and fresh water

How might we reduce the impacts of urban communities on our fresh water, allowing people and nature to thrive together?

© WWF-Canada / Noah Cole

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Urban communities and fresh water

How might we reduce the impacts of urban communities on our fresh water, allowing people and nature to thrive together?


With more than 80 percent of Canadians living in cities, there is substantial pressure on urban watersheds. Increasing urbanization leads to pollution, habitat loss and habitat fragmentation. Climate change pressures exacerbate an already stressed relationship.

© Frank Parhizgar / WWF-Canada

Some examples of these threats are:

The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority found that water quality is directly correlated to urbanization. They found the largest drivers of poor water quality are non-point source pollutants (such as the nutrients, pesticides and chemicals used to treat homes, gardens and roads) making their way into rivers and lakes through lawns, sewer drains and direct runoff. Other drivers include point-source pollutants such as industry spills and discharge and sewer outflows.

© Graeme Stewart-Robertson

Climate Change and Habitat Loss

Recent major flooding events in cities like Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and along the St. John River in New Brunswick are linked to increasing threats and urbanization. Often cities are built in a way that destroys the natural floodplain buffers of large bodies of water, replacing habitats with impervious surfaces and causing water to run off or pool, rather than be absorbed. These poorly planned conditions increase the chances of flooding. As extreme precipitation events become more frequent, flooding events will also increase and become more severe.

© iStock / Christophe Ledent / WWF-Canada

Habitat Fragmentation

Habitat fragmentation can have a significant impact on species. For example, the Okanagan population of Chinook salmon, which historically was large enough to support regional First Nations food and trade needs, was assessed as Endangered by COSEWIC in 2017. A key driver of their decline is the habitat fragmentation caused by dam constructions along their migration route.

Do you have a technology enabled solution to reduce the impacts of urban communities on our fresh water, allowing people and nature to thrive together? Register for the Generation Water Tech Challenge now.

Brief 2

Missing Fresh Water Data

How might we revolutionize our approach to water data to empower decision making?

© Ghost Watershed Alliance Society

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Missing fresh water data

How might we revolutionize our approach to water data to empower decision making?


Canada’s lack of water data is a challenge when making key decisions for conserving and managing a valuable natural resource.

Our 2017 Watershed Reports identified that 110 of 167 watersheds did not have enough data available to assess their health. Where monitoring does happen, the data is often inaccessible due to it being proprietary or in an incorrect format for analysis and use.

This adds up to a system where decision makers do not have adequate information required to make informed choices. Without baseline and real-time data, we can’t ensure that our water is healthy now, or in the future.

We have started building on the results Watershed Reports started, including through the use of blockchain technology and cutting-edge monitoring technology such as eDNA, but more needs to be done.

Do you have a technology enabled solution to revolutionize our approach to water data to empower decision making? Register for the Generation Water Tech Challenge now.

© Paul Vecsei / Engbretson Underwater Photography / WWF-Canada

  • Sep 16, 2019

    Challenge Launch

    September 18, 2019

    The Generation Water Tech Challenge
    launches and registration opens. 

    Register for an account to get access to the submission form.

  • Sep 16, 2019

    Application period closes

    November 15, 2019

    Last day to make submissions to the
    Generation Water Tech Challenge.
    Submissions will be accepted until 11:59 PST.

  • Sep 11, 2019

    Initial Review

    November 15 - November 29, 2019

    Applications will be reviewed. Review Committee members may reach out to applicants for additional information. Finalists will be notified and invited to present to the Expert Review committee by November 29th.

  • Sep 11, 2019

    Presentation Week

    December 9 - 13, 2019

    Finalists will make a 5-minute presentation via video conference to the Expert Review Committee followed by a short Q&A.

  • Sep 11, 2019

    Final notification

    December 13, 2019

    Finalists will be notified of the results.

  • Sep 11, 2019

    CSI Climate Ventures: Earth Tech program

    January - July 2020

    Award recipients will participate in the CSI Climate Ventures: Earth Tech program with ongoing support from WWF-Canada.

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Headshot of Liz

Elizabeth Hendriks

Vice-President, Freshwater, WWF-Canada

Headshot of Liz
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Elizabeth Hendriks

Vice-President, Freshwater, WWF-Canada

Elizabeth has fifteen years of experience working nationally and internationally on water policy. In her capacity as Vice President of WWF-Canada’s freshwater program, she led the 2017 release of Watershed Reports - the first national assessment of the health and stressors of Canada’s freshwater.

Building on the results of Watershed Reports, she is leading the Freshwater team in efforts to reverse the decline of freshwater ecosystems across the country with the intersection of technology, policy, and community building. Recently, this cutting-edge approach has included pairing community-based monitoring with the security of blockchain technology to better understand water health, and empowering citizen scientists to monitor their rivers using eDNA.

Elizabeth received her BA in International Development from Dalhousie University and her Master’s in Environmental Studies from the University of Waterloo.

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Andrew Craig

Senior Director, Sustainability, RBC

Dr X 2
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Xiaoyuan Geng, Ph. D

Dr. Xiaoyuan Geng is the manager and head scientist of Canadian Soil Information Service (CanSIS), Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. With education in the field of soil science and biogeochemistry through BSc. and MSc. years, Xiaoyuan conducted nutrient cycling and ecosystem modeling research and development work. Xiaoyuan contributed to the Boreal Ecosystem and Atmosphere Study (BOREAS) by conducting trace gas emission across boreal forest, including peatland, landscapes using incubation chamber method. Xiaoyuan taught remote sensing and GIS programming courses in University of Alberta and Algonquin college in Canada. He constructed and piloted core specifications of the early versions of the Web Processing Service (WPS) and Table Joining Service (TJS) international standards of Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC). Xiaoyuan developed key data integration and processing algorithms and produced an essential national framework data, Soil Landscapes of Canada. The framework is used for national sustainable metrics modeling, national environmental statistic reporting, international contribution on carbon accounting and environment assessments etc. Through his Ph. D study, Xiaoyuan developed an operational framework for predictive soil mapping in Canada. That framework is being used for national soil and soil landscape data renewal and applications. Presently Xiaoyuan, as one of Canadian representatives of the Global Soil Partnership, is leading a large collaborative effort on national soil and soil landscape data renewal and integrated use for several national applications such as national soil carbon sequestration potential inventory, sustainability metrics, living laboratory, and national ecological good and services reporting.

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Winnie Lam

Director of Energy, Google Cloud

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Marlow Pellat, Ph. D

Marlow Pellatt’s role at Parks Canada focuses on using an ecosystem-based management approach to maintaining and restoring the ecological integrity of Canada’s National Parks and National Marine Conservation Areas. In particular his scientific expertise is in paleoecology, conservation ecology, restoration ecology, and coastal ecosystem ecology. Marlow is actively involved in blue carbon initiatives with the tri-national (Canada, Mexico, USA) Commission for Environmental Cooperation. He is also leading a pan-Canadian investigation of blue carbon in Canada’s National Parks and National Marine Conservation Areas.

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Daniel Novielli

Ontario Sales Manager - Internet of Things, TELUS

Alemu Gonsamo
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Alemu Gonsamo, Ph.D

Dr. Alemu Gonsamo is a Canada Research Chair and an assistant professor of Remote Sensing at the School of Earth, Environment & Society in McMaster University. His research focuses on ground, airborne, and satellite remote sensing of vegetation from the leaf level to the global scale to study plant structural and photosynthetic traits, plant and carbon uptake seasonality, and terrestrial ecosystem primary productivity and greenness. Using long-term global satellite observations, ground measurements and mechanistic computer models, he also studies the impacts of increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations, climate change and variability on terrestrial ecosystems, and related feedbacks to the atmosphere through carbon cycle. His Remote Sensing lab at McMaster University develops improved satellite remote sensing methods and products for terrestrial ecosystems relevant to the global change studies.

Headshot of Jean Francois

Jean-François Barsoum

Senior Managing Consultant, Smarter Cities, Water and Transportation, Innovation, Research & Development, IBM

Maria Strack
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Maria Strack, Ph. D

Maria Strack is a Professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Management at the University of Waterloo and Tier II Canada Research Chair in Ecosystems and Climate. She received her PhD in 2006 from McMaster University where she studied the potential impact of climate change on peatland (wetland with organic soils, or peat) carbon cycling. Since then she has built an innovative and internationally recognized research program that investigates peatland greenhouse gas (GHG) exchange with a particular focus on managed ecosystems, including disturbance impacts and restoration and reclamation outcomes. Dr. Strack currently collaborates on peatland restoration research projects across Canada with partners in the horticultural peat, forestry and oil sands sectors, and government and non-governmental organizations. Results from her research have been incorporated in Canada’s GHG National Inventory Report to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change and she was a lead author on the chapter “Rewetted Organic Soils” in 2013 Supplement to 2006 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories: Wetlands.

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Read answers to frequently asked questions


Get in touch to ask
a question

© iStock / wildnerdpix / WWF-Canada

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are the goals of the WWF-Canada Generation Water Tech Challenge?

WWF-Canada is seeking bold, innovative and transformative ideas to help achieve our vision of seeing all of Canada’s fresh water in good condition. Our Watershed Reports identified two priority problems for Canada’s fresh water: high threats to urban watersheds and missing data across the country. It’s time to move beyond good ideas to tangible solutions that will have meaningful impact for water.

We are looking for technology-enabled solutions using hardware and/or software to achieve conservation outcomes around 2 problem briefs (solutions can address one or both problem briefs):

  1. How might we reduce the impacts of urban communities on our fresh water, allowing people and nature to thrive together?
  2. How might we revolutionize our approach to water data to empower decision making?

By providing support through our awards to the winners of the Challenge, our goal is that eventually these technologies will be used at scale to see improvements in the scores of our Watershed Reports.

2. How will my submission be evaluated?

Our review committee involves experts from the conservation and innovation communities. After an initial eligibility screening, proposals will be evaluated based on:

  • Alignment with WWF-Canada’s goals
  • Ecological and social responsibility
  • Impact on freshwater health and or data
  • Scalability of the solution
  • Feasibility of implementing the solution
  • Innovative and novel technology or approach
  • Openness and accessibility of the solution, including sharing knowledge and key learnings
3. Is the Generation Water Tech Challenge available in French?

Unfortunately, the Challenge is not completely bilingual. Where possible, the content is available in French, however the User Profile registration process and online Submission Form are only available in English. If you would prefer to make your submission in French, please contact us and we will provide a French Submission Form. If you are selected as a Finalist, the presentation to the Expert Committee must be done in English.

Furthermore, the Climate Ventures: Earth Tech program is conducted in English. Some French services may be provided to our Award Recipients during the course of the program, but the ability to speak and write in English is required for participation. Our hope is that future WWF-Canada Challenges will be bilingual.

4. Can I talk to someone at WWF-Canada to learn more about the Watershed Reports of about the Generation Water Tech Challenge?

Sure! If you have any questions, send us a message and we’ll get in touch.

5. Can I submit more than one idea?

Individuals can only enter one Submission, however, you can be listed as a team member on multiple Submissions. Keep in mind that Award Recipients will need to be available to participate in the Climate Ventures: Earth Tech program, so it is unlikely that two ideas from the same person will be selected as Award Recipients.

6. Does my solution need to address both problem briefs?

No. Your solution only needs to address one problem brief, although if it touches on both, great!

7. Innovative vs. invention?

When we talk about innovation, we don’t necessarily mean that you’ve invented something new. There are many opportunities to use existing technologies in new and innovative ways. To be eligible for this Challenge, you do not need to have created a completely new product (although if you have, that’s pretty cool too!) We will also be considering those submissions which find a novel approach to using existing technologies to solve freshwater issues.

8. What does "discovery to validation" mean?

There are several stages involved in taking a good idea and bringing it up to scale. They can be categorized as:

  • Ideation: An entrepreneur has an idea. This phase includes initial market and technology exploration.
  • Discovery: In this phase the value proposition of the venture is established, ideas are tested, a proof of concept is achieved, and customers are identified. This phase also involves early financials
  • Validation: During this phase, a business model established, there is a minimum viable product, and customers are verified. There may be some initial orders and the testing of a go-to-market strategy.
  • Efficiency: This phase starts to see initial market traction. Forecasts begin being based on actuals. There is a transition to scaling sale and marketing and demand creation.
  • Scale: In the final phase, there is a validated product and market, customer growth and an established management team

For our challenge, we are prioritizing solutions in the discovery to validation phases. We will also accept those in the ideation phase, however, we will be looking for a demonstrated commitment to the project from the project lead and/or team.

9. If I'm selected as an Award Recipient, do I have to participate in the Climate Ventures: Earth Tech program? Can I just have the grant?

The goal of this program is to see the technologies identified through the Generation Water Tech Challenge used at scale to see improvements in the scores of our Watershed Reports. Therefore, participation in the Climate Ventures: Earth Tech program by 1-2 people per application is mandatory to receive the award funding. Applicants must be available to participate from January to July 2020.

10. I don't live in Toronto; how can I participate in the Climate Ventures: Earth Tech program?

We want applicants and award recipients from all over Canada! So, this being a tech challenge, we’ll use technology! Mentorship and coaching sessions will happen via video conferencing software. Where possible, CSI will leverage their network to find co-working space for winning teams outside of Toronto. Travel costs to participate in the in-person Demo night will be covered for 1-2 participants per winning team.

11. Do I maintain ownership of my Intellectual Property?

Yes, all participants retain ownership of all rights, including intellectual property rights for project submitted to the Generation Energy Challenge. Keep in mind, as intention of this challenge is to create real-world solutions to Canada’s water issues, the open-source and accessible nature of the solution will be considered when evaluating proposals.