Source water protection

Source water

Source water is raw water from streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands and aquifers (groundwater). Source water is treated and used as drinking water in our communities. Protecting our source water is important to make sure it remains safe for human consumption and aquatic ecosystem health. It is the first step in the multi-barrier approach to ensuring every community has safe drinking water.

Safe drinking water

In May 2005, the GNWT released Managing Drinking Water Quality in the Northwest Territories: A Preventative Framework and Strategy. This strategy outlined the multi-barrier approach to drinking water and the four GNWT departments involved: Health and Social Services; Municipal and Community Affairs; Public Works and Services; and Environment and Climate Change.  Assisting communities with the first step of the multi-barrier approach—source water protection—is the main role that the Department of Environment and Climate Change plays.

What is the multi-barrier approach?

The multi-barrier approach is comprehensive approach to making sure our drinking water is safe. It is a system of procedures, processes and tools that together prevent or reduce the contamination of drinking water. Source water protection is the first barrier in the multi-barrier approach to safe drinking water. The other barriers include water treatment and operator training, water system maintenance (such as water pipes), water quality monitoring, and emergency response planning.

The Government of the Northwest Territories, Environment and Climate Change (GNWT ECC) worked with Dr. Robert Patrick from the University of Saskatchewan to develop a Source Water Assessment and Protection Guidance Document and a Source Water Assessment and Protection Workbook. Northwest Territories (NWT) communities can use these guidance documents to develop their own plans to protect their source water.

Source water protection assessment and planning

GNWT ECC partnered with Dr. Robert Patrick and source water protection experts Leslie Collins and Craig Murray from the Institute for Watershed Science and Indigenous Environmental Studies Department of Trent University to hold community source water protection workshops. These workshops were intended to help build community capacity and understanding regarding the steps involved in developing community source water protection plans.

The first source water protection workshop was held February 8-9, 2012 in Inuvik for communities in the Inuvik region. A second source water protection workshop was held in Yellowknife on March 22-23, 2012 for Sahtu, Dehcho, North Slave and South Slave communities. Representatives from community governments, regional land and water boards, land use planning boards, academia, non-government organizations, territorial and federal governments, and Indigenous Steering Committee members participated in these workshops.

Participants considered:

  • if their community could benefit from a source water protection plan
  • who would be involved in developing a plan for their community
  • potential sources of contaminants in their community and risks associated with these
  • opportunities and challenges to developing a community source water protection plan
  • funding sources for development of these community plans

These workshops were the first step in helping to build community capacity with respect to the development of community source water protection plans.

Community source water protection

Community source water protection planning is a process that must be led by the community. One of the first steps in developing a community plan is to establish a Steering Committee.  It is important that the Steering Committee is inclusive and open for people, including community members, to share interests, concerns, information and knowledge and have decision-making abilities when a source water protection plan is being developed.

The following links will provide additional information on source water protection:

The source water protection project addresses a Water Strategy Key to Success under the Know and Plan component.