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Watershed Academy~Job Pathways for Water and Climate Resilience

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Becoming a Water Protector

September 13, 2023

                                                  Who is a Water Protector?

“If you have a strong connection to environmental issues, I think you should be influencing others to take the same steps as you. Those that are uninformed, informed them; those that want to do more but don’t know how, teach them.”Bertine Lakjohn, 18, of Marshall Islands



Background: Where does the term “Water Protector” come from?

The first “water protectors” emerged from the uniting forces of the Nodapl movement. The Nodapl movement was in response to the construction of an oil pipeline named the “Dakota access pipeline”- 1,172 mile long pipeline that runs through western ND to southern IL. The pipeline was designed to be underneath the Mississippi and Missouri river and under lake Oahe near the Lakota reservation. This pipeline construction undermined a treaty that protected a burial ground of the Lakota people, but the threat of leaking oil also threatened the bodies of water it passed through. Pipelines are a fast way to transport oil underground but instead of avoiding these important water sources, the company decided to build right over them. Since then, the oil pipeline have leaked many times, polluting the Mississippi and Missouri rivers and lake Oahe, which is relied upon by millions of people. Situations like this one is why its important that people all around the country know what’s going on. If we don’t take action to protect our water than millions of people could be drinking and using polluted water, which can cause diseases, disabilities and death. 

  You don’t have to fish, hunt or kayak to care about our bodies of water. Being a water protector is standing up for water everywhere, knowing that water IS life. Unfortunately, our ground water levels have diminished significantly over the last 100 years. The sources from which we get our water, (rivers, snow runoff, and underground aquifers) are not recharging as fast as we are using them. The quality of water has gone down significantly too. There is more long lasting, even “forever chemical” pollution in our water then ever. Climate change driven droughts and fires also threaten our water sources; less and less rain creates dry brittle forests which light up easily on a hot day. Fires are then followed by years of pollution from debris and catastrophic flooding. How can we prevent these threats from causing havoc and diminishing the amount of clean water needed to go around?

The four RE’s of being a water protector

Be a watershed superhero. Be:






Some ways ANYONE can protect water:

  • Regenerative-A starfish is regenerative by regrowing limbs, that’s not what we mean by regenerative! Regenerative means to be resourceful by using what you already have and by being inventive. 
  • Resilience– Resilience is the capacity to withstand or to recover quickly from difficulty and struggles; Toughness. 
  • Restorative– To have the desire to repair what has been damaged or broken; to return something the way you found it or in better condition. 
  • Respectful– Lastly, respect is recognizing that all living creatures are connected and come from the same materials as us. We are only part of the system, not the rulers of it.