Working with First Nations to improve drinking water
Learn about Ontario’s collaborative work with First Nation communities and the federal government to support the elimination of long-term drinking water advisories, build local capacity and ensure the long-term sustainability of drinking water on reserves.
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Ontario is partnering with the federal government to provide $15M in funding for on-reserve water projects, including $2.7M in provincial funds for drinking water projects in 91 First Nations communities in Ontario.
Improving access to safe, sustainable drinking water in First Nation communities and eliminating long-term drinking water advisories is a shared responsibility between the federal government and First Nations and a priority for Ontario.
Ontario is committed to working collaboratively with First Nations communities and the Government of Canada to resolve long-term drinking water advisories and to ensure that there is a long-term strategy that addresses local needs from source to tap, builds capacity and ensures all Ontarians have access to the same high quality of drinking water.
Ontario works together with First Nation communities and the federal government on drinking water. Part of this work involves a trilateral technical working group. The goal of the working group is to support resolution of all long-term drinking water advisories identified since November 2015 at public federally funded on-reserve systems within 5 years, by April 2021.
Ontario is currently working collaboratively with a number of Tribal Councils and communities in Nishnawbe Aski Nation, Grand Council Treaty 3 and the Anishinabek Nation and will continue to engage and support communities across Ontario.
The province is committed to sharing drinking water and technical expertise with First Nations and the federal government, helping eliminate long-term drinking water advisories in First Nation communities and helping ensure safe, sustainable drinking water is available on reserves. Ontario is a leader in the design, construction, operations, maintenance and management of municipal drinking water systems, including small and remote systems.
Trilateral Steering Committee
The province is a partner on a Trilateral Steering Committee, established in September 2016, made up of representatives from Chiefs of Ontario, Political Territorial Organizations (including the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians, Grand Council Treaty 3, Nishnawbe Aski Nation and Anishinaebek Nation), the Ontario First Nations Technical Services Corporation, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada and Health Canada.
The Trilateral Steering Committee is taking action to eliminate 48 long-term drinking water advisories affecting 26 First Nation communities by April 2021. The committee is also working to ensure communities are able to support long-term sustainability to prevent future advisories.
Since work under this collaborative partnership began, 7 long-term drinking water advisories in 6 communities have been lifted as of June 30, 2017.
Ontario’s Technical Support
In June 2016, the Indigenous Drinking Water Projects Office was established to provide a single window for First Nations communities, Tribal Councils and Political Territorial Organizations to access the provincial technical resources and expertise that are available.
The Indigenous Drinking Water Projects Office provides technical and engineering support for on-reserve drinking water systems. Working collaboratively with communities and the federal government, the Indigenous Drinking Water Projects Office can, at the request of First Nation communities and Tribal Councils:
- undertake technical assessments of existing drinking water systems, including water quality sampling
- provide technical advice and support at every stage of the process for water quality improvement and maintenance projects
- support the development of sustainable operations and maintenance business plans for drinking water systems
- assess and support water system operator training and certification requirements
- provide advice and support for source protection and watershed planning.
Development and training
Experienced and knowledgeable drinking water system operators play a critical role in ensuring the ongoing safety of drinking water. First Nations have identified the need for additional support for First Nations operators in their communities. Several additional training and certification initiatives are under development and will be made available to First Nation drinking water operators and management and leadership (e.g., Tribal or Band Councils) throughout 2017-2018 and beyond.
To support these First Nation training initiatives, in partnership with the Ontario First Nations Technical Services Corporation and the Keewaytinook Centre of Excellence, Ontario has committed $1.85 million in funding through the Walkerton Clean Water Centre to develop and provide additional training to First Nation drinking water system operators.
The following training initiatives are currently under development:
- Entry Level Course for Drinking Water Operators
- Operator training plans
- Continuing education training for operators
- Training and tools for First Nation management
- Training and tools for First Nation leadership
Investing in infrastructure
Working together to plan for the long-term sustainability of drinking water systems is necessary to ensure that all First Nation communities have access to safe drinking water. Infrastructure funding is a federal responsibility under existing programs delivered by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada.
Building on this foundation, Ontario has invested in additional drinking water capital projects, supporting collaborative work with Canada and First Nation communities to launch innovative, customized and cost-effective ways to deliver clean drinking water.
Clean Water and Wastewater Fund
The federal Clean Water and Wastewater Fund is designed to accelerate short-term community investments while supporting the rehabilitation and modernization of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure, and the planning and design of future facilities and upgrades to existing systems.
Through this fund, $569.5 million is being provided through federal infrastructure funding. The Province of Ontario is cost-matching recipient contributions up to a maximum of 25% of total eligible costs.
Water, wastewater and stormwater projects in First Nation communities are eligible for the Clean Water and Wastewater Fund. Ontario partnered with the federal government to provide $15 million in funding for on-reserve water projects. From that, Ontario has approved $2.7 million in funding in 2017 towards drinking water projects in 91 First Nation communities.
Small Communities Fund
Under the federal Building Canada Fund, Ontario partnered with the federal government to provide support for projects of national, local or regional significance in communities with fewer than 100,000 residents.
Since 2015, 18 successful on-reserve water projects have been announced with funding valued at over $50 million (over $17 million to be provided by Ontario).
This funding is supporting the development of projects that deliver on local needs, and will help address drinking water advisories or high risk systems in some First Nation communities.
Through the Canada-Ontario First Nations Drinking Water Improvement Initiative, Ontario and Canada partnered with four small First Nations – Zhiibaasing, Lac Seul, Alderville and Munsee Delaware – to deploy innovative, customized and cost-effective drinking water solutions. Two long-term drinking water advisories were lifted as a result of this work.
Ontario’s Showcasing Water Innovation project demonstrated leading edge, innovative and cost-effective solutions for managing drinking water, stormwater and wastewater systems in Ontario communities. Under the program, two First Nations benefited from drinking water projects. One long-term drinking water advisory has now been lifted as a result.
Supporting source water protection
Ensuring the protection of water sources and watersheds is a priority for First Nation communities and a key commitment for Ontario.
In support of a source-to-tap approach for the long-term sustainability of drinking water systems, Ontario and the federal government are each investing $100,000 in a training program that will provide First Nation communities with capacity on source water protection.
The pilot training program is being developed and led by the Ontario First Nations Technical Services Corporation, in partnership with the Institute for Watershed Science at Trent University. The pilot is intended to provide First Nation communities with technical training and to provide support with the development and implementation of source protection plans, including online access to resource materials, templates and best management practices.
Ontario is also supporting source protection planning in First Nation communities through the development of an accessible, online toolkit that will contain templates, guidance and best management practices for source protection planning on reserve. The toolkit will be made available to First Nation communities in fall 2018.