Bob Sandford’s Decades-Long Fight for Fresh Water (VIDEO)

Aug 12, 20197 Issue, Stories

Bob Sandford at his home in Canmore, Alberta with journalist Lynn Martel.

By Lynn Martel

A native of Calgary, Bob Sandford’s commitment to Canada’s mountain world began when, as a 20-year-old, he took a job as a Banff National Park interpreter. In this capacity he flourished, attracting 200 people to his fireside presentations. He became a respected mountain historian, through which his talents for igniting people’s enthusiasm led to his coordinating regional celebrations and awareness initiatives including the Year of the Great Bear and, in 2002, the United Nations’ International Year of Mountains.

These collaborative projects led him to water. He published his first book on the topic, Water and Our Way of Life, in 2003 in his role as chair of the Canadian arm of the United Nations International Year of Freshwater and Wonder of Water initiative. By 2005, Canada was the first country to develop its own program in support of the United Nations’ International Decade for Action on Water, with Sandford at the helm. He was the first Canadian appointed to the permanent advisory committee of the esteemed Rosenberg International Forum on Water Policy and was instrumental in Canada hosting the forum for the first time in 2006, in Banff. In 2011, he was appointed as senior water advisor to the InterAction Council, a global public policy forum composed of nearly three dozen former heads of state including Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, US President Bill Clinton and former Prime Minister of Norway, Gro Brundtland.

Author of 35 books on the natural history and cultural heritage of the Canadian west, Sandford has written 15 books on water, climate change and related topics. His large-format Our Vanishing Glaciers: The Snows of Yesteryear and the Future Climate of the Mountain West earned him the 2017 Lane Anderson Award for the best science writing in Canada.

As EPCOR Chair in Water and Climate Security at the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health, he has remained at the forefront of public awareness and policy discussions with various levels of government concerning freshwater issues for the past two decades. Showing no sign of slowing down, he has two more books coming out this year, and a calendar filled with conferences, meetings and collaborative projects all aimed toward improving laws and regulations and our relationship with water, and the prominent role it plays in our warming climate.

In this interview at his home in Canmore, Alberta, Sandford talks to journalist Lynn Martel about his early encounters with the mountain landscape, the journey that brought him to fight for fresh water and what keeps him motivated during times of horrifying predications about the future of our planet.

Lynn Martel is the author of two books of adventure and ten mountain biographies. She has been writing about the unique and dynamic lifestyle of western Canada’s mountain community for more than two decades. Through magazine and newspaper articles about out­door adven­ture, his­tor­i­cal biogra­phies, social issues and cur­rent events, through nature and envi­ron­men­tal sci­ence, and through mountain-inspired art, writ­ing, film­mak­ing and photography – including her own – Lynn’s writing celebrates and delves beneath the surface of living, playing, working and learning in western Canada’s mountain world. See her work at