NWT-wide Community-based Water Quality Program

During the development of Northern Voices, Northern Waters: NWT Water Stewardship Strategy (Water Strategy) NWT communities and Indigenous Governments highlighted the need to be more involved in and know more about water stewardship.

The NWT-wide community-based water quality monitoring program started in 2012 in response to community questions about water quality. The program involves community members from 21 different communities in the NWT, ECC-GNWT staff and other water partners. The goal of the monitoring program is to give NWT residents the opportunity to do water monitoring and answer community questions about water quality. Questions from community members have guided the design of the program, including:

  • Is the water healthy? Is it healthy at specific places?
  • Do local, regional, or outside-the-NWT concerns make the water unhealthy?
  • Can we drink the water?
  • Is the quality of the water changing?
  • Is water quality affecting the health of fish and wildlife?
  • Are stressors affecting water quality? (Stressors might include climate change, development, municipal dumps and sewage lagoons in the NWT).
  • Are there cumulative effects of many different stressors on the water quality?

ECC-GNWT, along with other water partners, plays coordinating and supporting roles within this program. These roles include providing ongoing training and support to the community monitors to collect water samples using standard methods; and analyzing water quality data and providing results back to communities.

Results from the NWT-wide Community-based Water Quality Monitoring Program can be accessed on this site under Publications and at Mackenzie DataStream. If you want to request data from the monitoring program, please email nwtwaterstrategy@gov.nt.ca

For more information see Frequently Asked Questions below.

What type of equipment is used in this program?

The NWT-Wide Community-Based Water Quality Monitoring Program uses four kinds of equipment to test for different aspects of water quality.

  • A grab water sample is collected just below the surface of the water and tells us what is in the water at the time it is collected. Grab water samples are sent to Taiga Environmental Laboratory in Yellowknife. In the lab, the samples are analysed for 75 parameters including pH, turbidity, conductivity, chlorophyll-a, and total and dissolved metals.
  • Polyethylene Membrane Devices (PMDS) are passive samplers that act like sponges and pick up oil and gas-related chemicals (hydrocarbons) dissolved in the water. PMDs stay in the water for one month, up to four times per summer.  PMDs are so sensitive that, if a cigarette smoker handles the PMDs, the hydrocarbons in their breath can affect the results.
  • Diffusion Gradients in Thin-films (DGTs) are passive samplers  that act like sponges and pick up toxic dissolved metals in the water. DGTs are left in the water for three to four days. DGTs measure the concentrations of dissolved metals in the water over longer periods of time than sampling water on one occasion (a grab sample).
  • YSI sondes measure temperature, pH, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, oxidation-reduction potential (ORP), conductivity and chlorophyll-a every two hours for as long as the sondes are in the water.

For more information on water quality parameters, click here.  


Where is water being sampled?

To view the monitoring sites, click here .


When is the water sampled?

During open water season from June to October.

How are the samples processed?

The Grab Water Samples are tested at Taiga Environmental Laboratory.
The PMDs samples are tested at University of Alberta.
The DGTs samples are tested at Trent University.
The YSI Sonde data is downloaded from the device and stored by ECC- GNWT.


Where can I find results from this program?

The data is analyzed by ECC-GNWT staff. The results from the analysis are provided in a number of different formats to the communities and other water partners including:

  • Mackenzie DataStream
  • electronic mail-outs
  • regional meetings
  • 2014 Water Calendar 
  • teleconferences
  • Monitoring results available on the website can be accessed here.


What does a community monitor do?

A community monitor is crucial for implementing this community-based monitoring program. A community monitor helps to:

  • collect information about water quality;
  • track changes to water quality over time;
  • address community concerns about what is in the water; and
  • explain how what is in the water is related to the health of the fish and wildlife in our lakes and rivers.


Which communities are involved in the NWT-Wide Community-Based Water Quality Monitoring Program?

The following community organizations are involved in the NWT-Wide Community-Based Water Quality Monitoring Program :