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 Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) 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.
To meet the vision of the Water Strategy, NWT Water Stewardship: A Plan for Action 2011-2015 (the Action Plan) lays out a timeline and assigns tasks to the various partners in the Water Strategy. Every year an update will be published to make sure progress is being made.