Sponsor’s Report:
Columbia River Basin Expedition 2008
Exploring Freshwater Values and Management Solutions

Reprinted courtesy of WINGS WorldQuest

Ellen Zimmerman and Kalista Pruden hold WINGS Flag #13 in front of the Columbia Wetlands.

NWNL Director Alison M. Jones carried WINGS WorldQuest Flag #13 to the Upper Columbia River Basin. Her team explored Canadian reaches of the 40-million-year-old transboundary Columbia River Basin, opened a photo exhibit, and met with stakeholders. The expedition focused on the river’s headwaters, wetlands and the conservation efforts affecting the 9 lakes, 10 tributaries, and 4 mountain ranges visited.


Project Director/Photographer: Alison M. Jones

Researcher/Canadian Liaison: Kalista Pruden

Project Coordinator: Robin MacEwan

Science Advisor: Dr. Robin Sears

Base Manager: Jasmine Graf

Researcher: Erin Vintenner

Exhibit Consultant: Mark Lukes



Alison Jones knows that nothing matches the power of collective knowledge and coordinated action. In an effort to understand the significance of water in the Columbia River Basin and to help preserve this unique treasure, Alison set out to talk with scientists, policy analysts, representatives of tourism and recreation industries, museum curators, and concerned stakeholders such as hunters, foresters and local residents. Through lectures, meetings, a sharing of ideas, and the installation of a photographic exhibit, Alison brought focus to the water issues of the area. She connected stakeholders in different regions with one another and documented and shared the important efforts already being made in the region.


The Columbia River pours more water into the Pacific Ocean than any other river in North or South America and, along with its tributaries, is the dominant water system in the Pacific Northwest Region. The entire length of the river, from its sources to the Pacific Ocean, measures more than 1,200 miles and flows through British Columbia, Canada, into 7 U.S. states and 11 tribal nations, an area larger than France. Over 15 million people rely on this complex and heavily utilized fresh water resource for power, food and fiber through irrigation, transportation through navigation, recreation, fisheries, and municipal and industrial water supply. In fact, the Columbia River is the most hydroelectrically developed river system in the world with over 400 dams along its length and among its tributaries.

Industry dominates Canal Flats, BC, the headwaters of the Columbia River

Who: Alison M. Jones

What: Research and share imagery of the Columbia River Basin’s freshwater values, degradation and management

Where: Upper Columbia River Basin in British Columbia, Canada

Why: To raise awareness of global freshwater issues and to foster partnerships upstream and downstream


Today, the Upper Columbia and its wetlands are still fed by remaining glaciers now called the Columbia Icefield. At a depth of 2000 feet (365 meters), this Columbia Icefield represents the largest accumulation of snow and ice in the Rocky Mountains. But the climate is rapidly changing. The Icefield is melting.

The threatened 58,575-acre Columbia Wetlands, home to over 60 endangered bird species, is one of the longest intact wetlands in North America and a critical Pacific Flyway habitat. Due to active stewardship in the area, 95% of these wetlands remain in their natural, dynamic state despite resort development, logging, golf-course pesticides, mining, and motorized boats.


• Source of Photosynthesis and Beneficial Nutrients: Fisheries, migrating birds and species seeking seasonal habitats are nourished by wetlands.

• Flood Regulation: Wetlands’ control of rain, snowmelt and floodwater releases is a more effective and less costly mitigation than man-made dams. High flood risks will continue to increase as wetlands are lost and degraded.

• Groundwater Recharge: Wetlands re-supply nature’s water storage tanks.

A water lily blooms during summer in the Columbia Wetlands

• Filtration: Wetlands’ absorption of nitrogen and phosphorous provides cleaner water downstream for drinking water supplies, aquifers and reservoirs. As well, silt deposits from upstream erosion are settled out, filtered and trapped.

• Climate Regulation: Wetlands’ absorption of heat during the day and release of heat at night moderates local climates.

• Carbon Sequestration: Many wetlands – especially those that are forested or defined by organic soils – harbor carbon within their plant communities and soils and thus reduce climate change effects.

• Sustenance Provision: Wetlands have traditionally supplied food, water, fiber, medicinal products and timber for construction and fuel.

• Cultural Values: Aesthetic, spiritual, recreational and educational values of wetlands have nourished human populations through the ages.

Some of Alison’s photographs seen in the NWNL traveling exhibit


Alison believes that, through No Water No Life, she has helped establish upstream and downstream partnerships that will become critical links in future holistic approaches to preserving the values and functions of a watershed. She found that scientists and stakeholders alike are eager to be interviewed and to share their data. Her team has succeeded in dispensing information and publicity to watershed agencies and individual stewards, and has introduced stakeholders to each other, often across national boundaries. Through creative partnerships, all stakeholders involved will become stronger advocates for the preservation of this critical landscape.


Alison M. Jones is a conservation photographer who has documented ecosystems and their management for over 20 years in Africa and the Americas. She founded No Water No Life®in 2006 to raise public awareness of freshwater issues by combining the powers of photography and science in three watersheds in North America and three in northeastern Africa. She and the No Water No Life team also have completed expeditions to the Blue Nile, Mara, Omo, Mississippi and Raritan River Basins.