First Nations Safe Water and Wastewater Initiative

People on project:

Graham Gagnon


Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs

First Nations Safe Water and Wastewater Initiative


First Nations communities in Canada are often small and remote systems with respect to water and wastewater facilities.  As with other small and remote communities within Canada, there are major issues with both human resource and financial capacity.  First Nations communities are further challenged by the lack of a central regulatory body and standards to follow, and currently liability lies with the band and council. Unlike other Canadian small and remote systems, First Nations are not regulated by the provinces, and the standards for compliance are vague and variable. 

The state of water and wastewater in First Nations communities in Canada has come under scrutiny in the past few years.  In 2006, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, now Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC)), produced the “Protocols for Safe Drinking Water in First Nations”, which was updated in 2010 as the Protocol for Centralised Drinking Water Systems in First Nations Communities.  Also in 2006, an independent Expert Panel for Safe Drinking Water for First Nations provided recommendations to INAC on water treatment and management for First Nation Communities, where they identified 16 elements of a proposed regulatory system.  Finally, the Institute of Governance produced the Summary Report of the Impact Analyses of the Proposed Federal Legislative Framework for Drinking Water and Wastewater in First Nations Communities in 2009 in an effort to identify a path forward for the establishment of regulations for First Nations water and wastewater.

Over the past five years, Dalhousie has worked with the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs (APC) to develop a comprehensive water strategy for the Atlantic region.  CWRS has been involved with various aspects of this initiative with the ultimate goal of developing a framework for sustainable water treatment, delivery and collection.  Specific aspects of involvement has included:

  • Training of Community Based Water Monitors and water and wastewater treatment operators on safe drinking water approaches;
  • Reviews (2007 and 2012) of the Atlantic Canada Health Canada - Community Based Water Monitoring progam;
  • Development of regulatory benchmarks for the Atlantic Region; and
  • Meetings with Chiefs and Policy-makers on water and wastewater initiatives.