Budget 2016 proposes to invest, starting in 2016-2017:

  • $1.8 billion over five years for on reserve water and wastewater infrastructure to address health and safety needs, ensure proper facility operation and maintenance, and end long-term drinking water advisories on reserves

Access to safe drinking water, the effective treatment of wastewater and the protection of sources of drinking water on First Nation lands is a priority for the Government of Canada. First Nations should expect, as do all Canadians, access to safe, clean and reliable drinking water.

The Government of Canada and First Nations have a shared goal of supporting First Nation communities in providing access to safe, clean and reliable drinking water.

A comprehensive plan to improve drinking water and wastewater systems on First Nation lands is founded on four pillars:

  • enforceable standards and protocols
  • infrastructure investments
  • enhanced capacity building and operator training
  • protection of public health

Standards, guidelines and the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act

Indigenous Affairs and Northern Development Canada (INAC) has established water and wastewater protocols to help ensure that residents on First Nation lands enjoy standards of health and safety comparable to other Canadians. Standards are necessary to maintain water quality and to protect the substantial investments in First Nation water and wastewater systems. For more information on standards, protocols, please visit Standards, Guidelines and the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act.

While all provinces and territories have regulations governing drinking water and wastewater management, there are no regulations governing this on First Nation lands. INAC protocols and standards are not supported by enforceable regulations. Federal regulations are a vital step toward ensuring residents on First Nation lands have similar health and safety protections for drinking water as other Canadians.

The Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act came into force on November 1, 2013. The Act enables the federal government to work together with First Nations, their technical experts, and other stakeholders to develop enforceable federal regulations that will better ensure access to safe, clean, and reliable drinking water, the effective treatment of wastewater, and the protection of sources of drinking water on First Nation lands. Regulations will be developed concurrently on a region-by-region basis.

Previous investments in infrastructure

Between 2006 and 2014, the Government of Canada invested approximately $3 billion in water and wastewater infrastructure and related public health activities to support First Nation communities in managing their water and wastewater systems.

First Nations also invest in water and wastewater systems and activities through own source revenues and various other government sources at the local, provincial and federal level. The investments are steadily improving water services in First Nation communities.

Capacity and training

INAC supports First Nations in building capacity to operate, monitor, and maintain their drinking water systems and wastewater systems. Through initiatives such as the Circuit Rider Training program, the number of First Nations operators who are certified or in-training toward certification is steadily increasing.

Protection of public health

Health Canada supports First Nations communities south of 60° in ensuring that drinking water is monitored pursuant to the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality. Health Canada provides public health advice on-reserve and funds and trains Community-Based Water Quality Monitors.

What information is available?

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