People in the Northwest Territories (NWT) have been calling for stronger water stewardship as they become more concerned about the state of aquatic ecosystems in the NWT. Concerns related to aquatic ecosystems include the quality and quantity of the water and how these affect fish, wildlife and people that use the water. Pressures on water include climate change and large-scale developments, such as mining and oil and gas, in the NWT, British Columbia and Alberta.
Addressing these concerns means governments and residents working together to protect and sustain our water and aquatic ecosystems. It also means observing water and aquatic ecosystems closely for changes, while holding ourselves, and others, accountable for any negative effects.
In 2008, the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) started working with representatives from Aboriginal governments to develop a water stewardship strategy. Regulatory boards, agencies, environmental organizations, industry, academic institutions and the general public have also been involved in the process.
This partnership resulted in Northern Voices, Northern Waters: NWT Water Stewardship Strategy (the Water Strategy), released in 2010. This document lays out a clear path to bring all levels of government, agencies and the public together to maintain our waters.
While the Water Strategy encourages action, it does not affect existing or asserted Aboriginal rights, treaty rights or land, resource and self-government agreements. If there is any dispute between the Water Strategy and Aboriginal rights or agreements, the original rights or agreements will be upheld.
After the Water Strategy was released in 2010, a five-year Action Plan, NWT Water Stewardship: A Plan for Action, 2011-2015, was developed to guide the first implemention phase. In June 2016, a second Action Plan, NWT Water Stewardship Strategy: A Plan for Action 2016-2020, was released to build on the momentum of the 2011-2015 Action Plan, and guide the second five-year implementation pagse of the Water Strategy.
Similar to the first Action Plan, the second plan identifies lead and supporting water partners and Keys to Success with associated Action Items and deliverable dates. The Action Plan for 2016-2020 also identifies performance indicators to track the effectiveness of implementation.
The Action Plan will be subject to ongoing review and evaluation to ensure its implementation continues to advance the intent of the Water Strategy. Regular status updates will be published to track and report on progress.
The Water Strategy and Action Plans were developed by water partners to create a collaborative, partnership-based approach to enhance and promote water stewardship in the NWT at all levels.