Indigenous Services Canada has provided an update on progress toward clean drinking water in all First Nations communities. As of July 6, 2021, 32 First Nations communities across Canada are working to resolve long-term drinking water advisories. In total, First Nations communities have lifted 108 long-term drinking water advisories restoring reliable access to safe drinking water for 6350 homes and 467 buildings in 79 communities since November 2015.
The work continues and there are initiatives underway to address the remaining 51 long-term drinking water advisories in effect in 32 First Nations communities.
“Congratulations to Chief Nelson Genaille and the Sapotaweyak Cree Nation and Chief Nathan Pasap and the White Bear First Nation on lifting long-term drinking water advisories. We will continue working with you to ensure that clean, reliable drinking water remains in your communities for generations to come,” said Marc Miller, federal Minister of Indigenous Services.
“Much work remains, but progress is being made. In fact, First Nations, with support from Indigenous Services Canada, have lifted 108 long-term advisories since November 2015. Increased operations and maintenance funding along with long-term water infrastructure planning will help us support First Nations restore trust in their water supply. We will not stop until access to safe drinking water is a reality for all First Nations communities.”
Since the federal government’s last progress update on May 17, 2021, two First Nations communities have lifted long-term drinking water advisories, with support from Indigenous Services Canada.
The long-term drinking water advisory in White Bear First Nation in Saskatchewan was lifted, effective June 15, 2021. The advisory had been in effect since September 2011. A new water treatment plant was constructed to serve the community and in-home filters were removed from homes to ensure they did not become a cause of contamination.
The long-term drinking water advisory affecting Sapotaweyak Cree Nation’s public water system was lifted, effective May 20, 2021. The community’s existing plant, on which the advisory was initially placed, was undersized and required replacement. It is no longer in operation or supplying water to the community. Construction of a new water treatment plant, which will provide water for the community over the long-term, has been completed and water sampling shows the water meets the required guidelines.
Additionally, three short-term drinking water advisories, lasting between two and 12 months, have been lifted since mid-May, bringing the total to 183 short-term advisories prevented from becoming long-term since November 2015.
Snapshot of progress made so far:
- 9% of long-term drinking water advisories on public systems on reserves have been lifted.
- 7% of long-term drinking water advisories on public systems on reserves are being addressed by projects that are currently in the construction phase.
- 8% of long-term drinking water advisories on public systems on reserves are being addressed by projects where construction is complete. Final steps to lift these advisories are underway.
- 3% of long-term drinking water advisories on public systems on reserves are being addressed by projects that are in the design phase.
- 3% of long-term drinking water advisories on public systems on reserves are being addressed by a feasibility study to determine an appropriate solution.
A drinking water advisory becomes long-term when it has been in place for more than a year. In November 2015, there were 105 long-term drinking water advisories affecting public systems on reserves. Between November 2015 and July 6, 2021, 108 long-term advisories affecting public systems on reserves were lifted. 51 remain in effect in 32 First Nations.
As of March 31, 2021, more than $2.05 billion of targeted funds has been allocated to support 733 water and wastewater projects in 581 First Nations communities, serving approximately 463,000 people. A total of 407 of these projects are complete.
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Featured image: Autumn Peltier, 16-year-old water-rights activist from Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory and chief water commissioner for the Anishinabek First Nation, gained international recognition for confronting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a meeting of the Assembly of First Nations in 2016. Peltier is the focus of the short documentary “The Water Walker,” released in 2020. For further information on Peltier, see the January/February 2019 edition of Water Canada.