In the Northwest Territories (NWT), many stakeholders have leadership roles in carrying out environmental stewardship, as well as shared responsibility to care for the land and water. These stakeholders include indigenous governments, the territorial and federal governments, co-management boards, regulatory boards, environmental non-governmental organizations, municipalities, and industry.
Water monitoring activities have been conducted in the NWT by governments, communities, and industry for many years and this historical information provides a window to the past and helps with the understanding of current environmental conditions. There is long-term, continuous data from some monitoring programs that go back 50 to 60 years. Other programs offer data sets that capture a snapshot in time.
Various departments have key water management or monitoring roles in the NWT. Further information on these and other departments can be found in Appendix E of Northern Voices, Northern Waters: NWT Water Stewardship Strategy.
Department of Environment and Natural Resources
The department of Environment and Natural Resources, Government of the Northwest Territories (ENR) is the authority responsible for water resources management and has an important role in maintaining the integrity of northern waters. ENR manages the NWT’s inland and offshore water resources though the administration and co-management of the Northwest Territories Waters Act, the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act and Regulations, and the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act. ENR supports programs and initiatives under the Water Strategy, including community-based monitoring and transboundary water negotiations. ENR also supports safe drinking water through source water protection using a multi-barrier approach.
Environment and Climate Change Canada
In the NWT, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) collects, processes, publishes, and distributes surface water quantity and quality data on a national basis through the authority of the Canada Water Act, formal agreements with ENR-GNWT, other government departments, and the private sector. For real-time or historical water quantity data (water level and flow), visit the Government of Canada Water Information site. For information on real-time or historical water quality monitoring you can useECCC's online interactive map by clicking here.
Other departments of the GNWT
The GNWT, through various departments, is responsible for public water supply regulation and environmental protection within the territory. Some of the departments which address water-related issues include:
- The Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) provides information on community drinking water, offers the circuit rider training program and operator certification, and provides information for municipal water treatment plant operators;
- The Department of Health and Social Services (HSS) regulates drinking water safety under the Public Health Act, has developed Water Supply System Regulations for the development and operation of water treatment plants and drinking water systems, and conducts water sampling and testing, and implements boil water advisories when necessary;
- The Department of Infrastructure (INF) offers technical guidance to communities on water, wastewater and municipal waste disposal, develops and updates technical standards and guidelines, and carries out inspections and operational reviews of water supply systems; and,
- The Interdepartmental Drinking Water and Waste Committee (comprising ENR, HSS, MACA, and INF) provides a coordinated approach to management of issues related to drinking water and waste. The Committee developed the NWT drinking water framework titled Managing Drinking Water Quality in the Northwest Territories, A Preventative Framework and Strategy to keep NWT water clean, make drinking water safe, and prove drinking water is safe (the multi-barrier approach).
Regulatory boards administer and control the use of land and water in the NWT through the issuance of water licences and land use permits. These boards play a very important role in managing water resources. Relying on the data provided by other parties and lessons learned through previous experience, these boards are responsible for evaluating development proposals to determine any potential impacts on land and water.
If a water licence is issued by a board, there is generally a requirement for some form of monitoring program. As projects proceed, monitoring programs show whether impacts are occurring as predicted, and whether the steps used to mitigate them are working as anticipated. Sometimes mitigation measures may need to be adjusted, requiring a water licence, land use permit, or environmental agreement to be modified.
Monitoring programs provide the information necessary to respond and make decisions in an efficient manner. Scientists, governments, indigenous groups, industry, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have a vested interest in ensuring any cumulative effects of development are closely monitored.
For more information on regulatory boards please visit the ENR-GNWT Water Management site.