Improving Water and Wastewater Infrastructure in First Nation Communities


Budget 2016 Investments 

As part of Budget 2016, the Government of Canada committed to end all long-term drinking water advisories affecting Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC)-funded public systems on reserve within five years, and is on track to deliver on this commitment.

Through Phase 1 of the Investing in Canada long-term infrastructure plan announced in Budget 2016, the Government of Canada is providing $1.8 billion over five years for First Nation communities to significantly improve on-reserve water and wastewater infrastructure, ensure proper facility operation and maintenance, and strengthen capacity by enhancing the training of water system operators. 

So far, $275.7 million in targeted funding has been allocated to support water and wastewater initiatives, including 201 water and wastewater projects. Of these, 29 projects are aimed at addressing 44 long-term drinking water advisories in 28 communities. A total of 159 communities, serving more than 196,000 people stand to benefit from these investments. 

This includes funding for projects such as the Slate Falls First Nation water treatment system. In Slate Falls, the new system will eliminate ten drinking water advisories which have been in place for more than 12 years. 

In addition to this, to help strengthen water system operator capacity on reserve, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada funds the Circuit Rider Training Program, and Health Canada funds a water monitoring program called the Community-Based Water Monitor program. 

Budget 2016 also included $141.7 million over five years in new funding to Health Canada to improve drinking water monitoring and testing on reserve. 

Importantly, committing investments over five years provides the stability that allows for long-term planning to improve on-reserve water and wastewater systems. 

Projects and initiatives for 2017-18 through to 2020-21 are being prioritized to achieve the elimination of all long-term drinking water advisories affecting systems financially supported by INAC within the five-year timeframe identified in Budget 2016. 

In November 2015, there were 77 long-term drinking water advisories affecting INAC- funded public systems on reserve. As of January 2017, there were 71, and the government is on track to lift these remaining advisories.

Working in partnership with First Nations to create sustainable solutions 

Working in full partnership with First Nations and other partners to address water and wastewater infrastructure issues in First Nations communities is a key priority for this Government. 

The Government of Canada is working closely with First Nation leaders and technical advisors to support sustainable First Nations-led approaches to address new and ongoing drinking water advisories as well as other infrastructure and system operation needs. In addition to working directly with First Nations leaders, INAC is focusing additional efforts and expertise in the three regions where 90 percent of long-term drinking water advisories are located: Ontario, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia. For example, in Ontario, a Trilateral Technical Working Group made up of First Nation technical leaders, water experts from INAC and Health Canada, First Nation technical organizations and the Ontario government was established in September 2016. 

This approach will allow First Nations to address water issues on reserves before they lead to long-term drinking water advisories. 

The Government of Canada also recognizes the importance of strengthening capacity in First Nation communities, and is enhancing the training of water system operators to this end. Trained and certified operators are key to reducing risk and helping to ensure safe drinking water in First Nation communities. To support First Nations in developing and retaining the capacity to operate, service and maintain water and wastewater systems, INAC funds the Circuit Rider Training Program. This is a mentoring and long-term capacity building program that uses traveling trainers, called Circuit Rider Trainers, who visit First Nation communities and their system operators to assist them in obtaining and maintaining their certification. Budget 2016 provided additional funding for this program. 

Health Canada works with First Nation communities and provides funding to Chief and Council for drinking water monitoring through its Community-Based Water Monitor program. The goal of this program is to enable First Nation communities to sample and test their drinking water for microbiological contamination. 

The Government of Canada will continue to work closely with First Nations to develop sustainable solutions to ensure that First Nation communities have access to safe, clean, and reliable drinking water.

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