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The Thiess Riverprize

On September 22, 2009, we stood on the international scientific stage to receive the esteemed International Thiess Riverprize. The International Riverprize is the most highly regarded and valuable river management award in the world. Below are some details about the award, what it means to have won it and how the award money will be spent.

Overview and History of the Thiess

  • There are actually two Riverprize awards: an international award and a national award.
  • The awards were borne out of a vision of the City of Brisbane and the then Lord Mayor Jim Soorley to put best practice for restoration of rivers on the global agenda.
  • The vision extended to offer a prize to complement International Riversymposium, an internationally recognized, cutting-edge forum for river management. 
  • The first Thiess Riverprize was awarded in 1999. It was an international award valued at $100,000 (Australian).
  • A national prize was introduced two years later in 2001 and was valued at $25,000 (Australian). The International Riversymposium was part of the Riverfestival, an annual celebration of Brisbane’s people, culture and environment.
  • In 2000, the Grand River Conservation Authority was the first Canadian organization to win this award.
  • In 2003, Riverfestival initiated a separate foundation to ensure the continued funding of the Riverprizes and support of International Riversymposium. The International Riverfoundation (IRF) was born.
  • Since 2003, Riverprize has been delivered in partnership between Riverfestival and IRF. IRF funds the prize money and Riverfestival manages the delivery of the prize.
  • We are the first ever lake-based organization to win the International Riverprize.

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About the Trophy

thiess award

The design of the distinctive Riverprize trophy is based on an interpretation of a coolamon or piti. This is a vessel used by Australian aboriginal women for carrying water, bushfood, or as a cradle for babies. The trophy is cast in aluminum, highlighting the concept of a silver shimmer of reflected light on water.

We display the award proudly in our Newmarket office.

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Our Submission

Our submission included:

  • An application and organizational overview
  • Three references provided by:
    • Gord Miller, Environmental Commissioner for Ontario
    • Bill Fisch, Chair of York Region
    • Peter Dillon, Trent University
  • A summary of our work and achievements
  • Details about the roles of the various partners in our work
  • Evidence of outstanding achievement - we demonstrated specific and measurable achievements
  • Detailed descriptions of the progress we’ve made toward sustainability

The Finalists (in alphabetical order)

1. Avon River, England (Natural England)
2. Lake Simcoe, Canada (Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority)
3. Lower Owens River, USA (City of Los Angeles)
4. Polochic Basin, Guatemala (WWF Central America)
5. Yellow River, China (Yellow River Conservancy Commission)

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Judging Criteria

The main criteria for both prizes are to demonstrate outstanding results in river or catchment/watershed management and substantial progress towards sustainability. Submissions also need to show evidence of high levels of program delivery, inclusiveness, public accountability and innovation.

About the Judges

Nominations in each category are judged by two separate panels composed of natural resource managers, representatives from the water industry, government agencies, environmental organizations and eminent scientists from Australia and overseas.

Why we Won

Our submission demonstrated watershed excellence on a number of fronts. We provided details on a number of fronts:

  • strong partnerships, collaboration and accountability
  • evidence of solid science to support our efforts
  • specific and measurable progress and achievements
  • an integrated watershed management approach
  • successful restoration projects
  • documented achievements in organizational capacity and partnerships
  • a strong outreach program
  • strong leadership in the work we do

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The Award Money: $350,000 (Australian)

$100,000 is to be used for a "Twinning Project"

Twinning supports international collaborative partnerships to restore rivers. It enables winners and finalists to exchange their valuable expertise with other river organizations that are in need of skills and knowledge.

The benefits of twinning are:

  • knowledge exchange (both partners learn from each other)
  • personal and professional development
  • cross-cultural sharing of resources and experience
  • technology transfer
  • improvement of socio-economic status for the recipient partner
  • rehabilitation of degraded rivers and catchments

We’ve established an internal working group to review the criteria associated with twinning, to identify potential projects, create the business case, and submit it to the Board of Directors for their approval.

$250,000 will be used in continued watershed management projects

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Virginia Hackson’s Acceptance Speech

Good evening ladies and gentlemen.

My name is Virginia Hackson. I am Chair of the Board of Directors for the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority.

I don’t mind telling you that it’s a great thrill for us to be standing before you tonight, accepting the Thiess International Riverprize – the world’s most prestigious award for excellence in watershed management.

We are proud and honoured to be in the company of finalists as distinguished as our friends from the United Kingdom, China, the United States and Guatemala.  We congratulate you all for your fine work.

At Lake Simcoe, we have developed a system of integrated watershed management and we’ve seen some significant results. Phosphorus loading into the lake is down about 35 percent from its worst condition 20 years ago. And dissolved oxygen in the deep lake waters – so essential for the survival of our signature lake trout fishery – is up over 200 percent.

It has been a long journey, and our work is not finished. It will not be finished until we have restored all of the damage done by 200 years of neglect and abuse. It won’t be finished until we have changed the wasteful consumption and disposal behaviours of all of our residents. Our work won’t be finished until the campaign of protection and restoration is championed not only by the enlightened few but it becomes an integral part of the lifestyle choices each one of us makes every day.

All of us here tonight are committed to the value of partnership. At Lake Simcoe, we are supported by partners at the local, provincial and federal levels of government, as well as community and stakeholder groups throughout our watershed. We will share the thrill of this award with all of our partners in a proper way when we return home.

We are also committed to the sharing of information and best practices, the transfer of knowledge, and the celebration of success throughout the world. We do that informally with our many international colleagues. And, in the weeks ahead, we will finalize an agreement with an international twinning partner with whom we will share the best of our knowledge and experience that have been so helpful to us on our own journey.

At the same time, of course, we deeply appreciate the cash portion of this Riverprize and will use it to advance our work in areas that would otherwise not be possible.

And so, on behalf of our local watershed and international partners, and with deepest appreciation from the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority in Canada, we thank Thiess, the International River Foundation, and the distinguished panel of judges.

This award will take a place of honour in our office, and it will be a symbol in our watershed for the work that we must pursue together – with cooperation, with determination, and with great hope for the future.

Thank you so much.

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Quarterly Reports

July 2012 (pdf)

March 2012 (pdf)

December 2011 (pdf)

September 2011 (pdf)

June 2011 (pdf)

March 2011 (pdf)

December 2010 (pdf)

August 2010 (pdf)

March 2010 (pdf)

December 2009 (pdf)