First Nations Water and Wastewater Action Plan


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Name of horizontal initiative: First Nations Water and Wastewater Action Plan

Name of lead department(s): Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada

Federal partner organization(s): Health Canada

Non-federal and non-governmental partner(s): Not applicable

Start date of the horizontal initiative: April 1, 2008

End date of the horizontal initiative: March 31, 2016

Total federal funding allocated (start to end date): $3,096,486,118

In Budget 2008, the Government of Canada provided $330,639,806 over two years to support on-reserve water/wastewater infrastructure and complementary activities through the First Nations Water and Wastewater Action Plan (FNWWAP). Budgets 2010, 2012 and 2014 each extended the program for an additional two years, with total new funding of $985,015,644 over the six-years period. Budget 2009: Canada's Economic Action Plan announced another $165 million over two years for the completion of drinking water and wastewater infrastructure projects. Existing departmental reference levels of funding allocated for First Nations water and wastewater activities from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada and Health Canada provide another $1,615,830,668.

Funding contributed by non-federal and non-governmental partners: Not applicable

Description of the horizontal initiative: The prime objective of the FNWWAP is to support First Nation communities on reserves in bringing their drinking water and wastewater services to a level and quality of service comparable to those enjoyed by Canadians living in communities of similar size and location. The initiative has five key areas of activity: infrastructure investments; operations and maintenance; training; monitoring and awareness; and standards.

To meet the objectives of the FNWWAP, several program enhancements have been introduced, including a national engineering assessment of existing water and wastewater facilities; increased training through the Circuit Rider Training Program; modification of existing policies related to small water and septic systems and agreements for water and wastewater services; investment in a National Wastewater Program; and development of waterborne illness procedures.

The FNWWAP was implemented as part of government commitments made in the 2007 Speech from the Throne, Budget 2008, Budget 2010, Budget 2012, and Budget 2014 to support First Nations' access to safe drinking water. It supports the continued commitment to promote access to clean water in Aboriginal communities announced in the 2011 Speech from the Throne.

The FNWWAP supports AANDC's Strategic Outcome, The Land and Economy: Full participation of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis individuals and communities in the economy. The initiative also supports the strategic outcome of Health Canada's First Nations and Inuit Health Programming and Services: Better health outcomes and reduction of health inequalities between First Nations and Inuit and other Canadians.

More information is available at these websites:

Shared outcome(s): The FNWWAP works toward the achievement of four outcomes:

Governance structures: The FNWWAP is a successor to the joint First Nations Water Management Strategy (2003–2008) and the AANDC Plan of Action for Drinking Water (2006–2008). A memorandum of understanding regarding data sharing related to drinking water has been in place between AANDC and Health Canada since 2005. AANDC shares information on the proposed water and wastewater infrastructure investments; the annual inspections of water and wastewater treatment plants; and action related to drinking water advisories. Conversely, Health Canada shares information such as drinking water sample results that do not meet the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality and reasons for recommending drinking water advisories. At the working level, the Strategic Water Management on Reserve Committee, which includes representatives from Health Canada, AANDC, Environment Canada and the Assembly of First Nations, provides a forum for discussion to share information and co-ordinate joint action, although this is not a formal decision-making body. It also provides integrated and co-ordinated leadership to ensure safe drinking water for First Nation communities and to implement the FNWWAP.

Directors general and assistant deputy ministers from Health Canada and AANDC meet when needed to exchange and coordinate action on all relevant issues related to the FNWWAP.

Planning highlights: Under FNWWAP, efforts to support First Nations communities in the improvement of their water and wastewater services are based on a long-term plan founded on the following four pillars, all of which contribute to achieving the respective targets of AANDC and Health Canada:

  1. Enhanced capacity building and operators training:
    • Establish an enhanced operator training and/or hub-model service provider for on-reserve water and wastewater system management.
    • Increase accountability through enhanced oversight (based on risk) on operation and maintenance funding, including maintenance management.
    • Implement the Circuit Rider Trainer Program; the standardized program will support operators to improve operation and maintenance of the systems.
  2. Enforceable Water and Wastewater Standards:
    • Continue to work with First Nations, provincial and territorial governments and other stakeholders to develop federal regulations to ensure access to safe, clean and reliable drinking water, the effective treatment of wastewater, and the protection of sources of water on First Nation Lands.
    • Continue to implement the strategy to support First Nations' compliance with future regulations being developed under the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, which came into effect on November 1, 2013.
    • Continue to support First Nations to comply with Environment Canada's Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations effective since June 29, 2012.
  3. Capital Investments in 2015–2016:
    • Continue to prioritize capital investments to target high- and medium-risk systems. AANDC's risk assessments take into account extensive factors that could lead to problems with water/wastewater systems. Work is currently underway to build and upgrade numerous water and wastewater systems on First Nation reserves across Canada. The projects range from feasibility studies to minor repairs to construction of new systems, and include projects that will take several years to complete.
  4. Protection of Public Health in 2015–2016:
    • Support all First Nations communities in ensuring ongoing access to a trained Community-Based Water Monitor (CBWM) or Environmental Health Officer;
    • Continue to support all First Nations communities in ongoing monitoring of drinking water quality as per the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality;
    • Finalize the National Training Program for CBWMs;
    • Implement the improved quality control of on-site microbiological drinking water analysis;
    • Continue to review water and wastewater project proposals from a public health perspective.

Results to be achieved by non-federal and non-governmental partners: Not applicable

Planning Information
Federal organizations Link to departmental Program Alignment Architectures Contributing programs and activities Total allocation (from start to end date)($ millions) 2015–2016
Planned spending ($ millions)
Expected results
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada Community Infrastructure and Internal Services Capital Facilities and Maintenance Program — FNWWAP funding 1,104 136.6 a) Increase in percent of First Nation drinking water systems with low-risk ratings.

b) Increase in percent of First Nation wastewater systems with low-risk ratings.
a) 54% low risk by 2019

b) 65% low risk by 2019
Canada's Economic Action Plan funding 165 Not applicable
Capital Facilities and Maintenance Program — A base funding 1,576.5 193.1
Health Canada First Nations and Inuit Primary Health Care Drinking Water Safety Program — FNWWAP funding 211.7 23.5 Support all First Nations communities in ensuring ongoing access to a trained Community-Based Water Monitor (CBWM) or Environmental Health Officer 100% of First Nations communities will have full access to a trained CBWM or Environmental Health Officers to monitor their drinking water quality.
Date to achieve target: March 31, 2016
Drinking Water Safety Program — A based funding 39.4 4.3 Continue to support all First Nations communities in ongoing monitoring of drinking water quality as per the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality. Over 50% of on-reserve public distribution systems will meet weekly national testing guidelines for bacteriological parameters (e.g. based on testing frequency recommended in the GCDWQ).
Date to achieve target: March 31, 2016
Total for all federal organizations 3,096.6 357.5 Not applicable

AANDC total allocation includes Internal Services, whereas the planned and actual spending is for Water and Wastewater sub-program only, and excludes Internal Services and accommodation costs.

Contact information

Daniel Leclair
Director General
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada
Community Infrastructure Branch
Telephone: 819-953-4636

Ivy Chan
Health Canada
Inter-Professional Advisory and Program Support Directorate,
Environmental Public Health Division
Telephone: 613-948-7773

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