Vision, goals and principles

The waters of the Northwest Territories will remain clean, abundant and productive for all time.” - NWT Water Stewardship Strategy Vision

In this section

The vision of Northern Voices, Northern Waters: NWT Water Stewardship Strategy reflects the importance of working together to ensure that the water in the NWT continues to meet the health, cultural and economic needs of residents, while sustaining aquatic ecosystems. Abundant and clean water means clean drinking water in all homes and communities, as well as healthy fish in every lake and river. The quality of life for residents depends on water and healthy aquatic ecosystems, as does the delivery of goods by barge and ice road, and the production of hydro-electricity. 


The goals of the NWT Water Stewardship Strategy are to ensure:

  • Waters that flow into, within or through the NWT are substantially unaltered in quality, quantity and rates of flow.

  • Residents have access to safe, clean and plentiful drinking water at all times.

  • Aquatic ecosystems are healthy and diverse.
  • Residents can rely on their water to sustain their communities and economies.
  • Residents are involved in, and knowledgeable about, water stewardship.
  • All those making water stewardship decisions work together to communicate and share information.


Along with the overall vision, these five principles will guide water use in the NWT:

  1. Respect – Water stewardship decisions respect values held and various lifestyles chosen by NWT residents. These include spiritual, cultural, public health, recreational, economic and ecological values. Water stewardship decisions respect Aboriginal rights or treaties including land, resource and self-government agreements.

  2. Sustainability – Water stewardship decisions sustain healthy and diverse aquatic ecosystems over time. They maintain the ability of current and future generations to choose their way of life.

  3. Responsibility – Water stewardship is a collective responsibility. All NWT residents must make thoughtful decisions about actions that may affect NWT aquatic ecosystems.

  4. Knowledge – Water stewardship decisions are based on accurate and up-to-date traditional, local and western scientific knowledge. As knowledge evolves, stewardship decisions evolve accordingly. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage to aquatic ecosystems, lack of certainty is not used as a reason to postpone effective measures that can avert the potential threat.

  5. Accountability – Water stewardship decisions are made in an informed, transparent and participatory manner. Those who make decisions must be held responsible for the consequences of those decisions.


The Strategy uses four interrelated approaches to ensure progress towards its goals. These are stewardship, an ecosystem-based approach within watersheds, understanding and accounting for the value of water and watersheds, and translating information into informed decision-making:

  1. Stewardship – recognizing that people are part of the environment, and that effective stewardship by all governments, organizations and residents will help to realize the vision of clean, productive and abundant waters in the NWT.

  2. Ecosystem-based approach within watersheds – understanding how human actions affect ecosystems and how ecosystems affect humans, while recognizing it is important to sustain a diverse and healthy ecosystem for the benefit of people, plants and animals within a watershed. 

  3. Water and watershed values – identifying and understanding the natural, spiritual, cultural, social and economic values within a watershed and using these values when making decisions about water and land use.

  4. Information to understanding – ensuring management decisions for protecting and preserving water and aquatic ecosystems are based on the best available information (from traditional, local and western scientific knowledge), and that information is continually being gathered to improve or adapt management practices.