Meredith Brown is the Ottawa Riverkeeper, a watchdog for the 1,271-kilometres river system and an educator on water issues.

Water levels in the Ottawa River are the lowest that they’ve been all century. Should we be worried?

I think it’s a bit of a cause for concern. For sure they are very low and I think it’s really an eye-opener for us to look at the impact that climate change is having on our river.

What did you think when the storms started last week?

The first thing I thought about was how much raw sewage would be going into the river, because that’s what happens when we have intense rainstorms. Our infrastructure is not designed for these storms.

You’re an avid kayaker. Have you had much chance to play in the water this summer?

I haven’t had a lot, unfortunately. I’m so busy. I’ve got a really big meeting that I’m preparing for. I’m organizing the first-ever Ottawa River Summit and that’s taking place at the end of August. It’s been taking up a lot of my time, but it’s going to be a really precedent-setting meeting.

Do you see any good news on our water situation?

I think the good news is that the river is on top-of-mind for elected officials because it’s on the minds of the people they represent. I think it’s good news that we have so many people who are willing to come together to talk about the health and future of the Ottawa River.

Why is it important for people to rethink bottled water?

Bottled water is the perfect example of wasteful, inefficient use of a resource. A lot of bottled water is just municipal tap water, so it’s taken from one municipality and then trucked across the world or across the country. It’s energy intensive, and you’re left with a product that ends up in a landfill most of the time.

Is there anything one person can do to help keep the river healthy?

I always like to encourage people to use the river, so get out there, paddle, swim, picnic, because unless we’re really appreciating it, we’re not going to be as inclined to protect it.