Aurora water drop

How the strategy was developed

Water stewardship in the NWT

The commitment to develop a made-in-the-North water strategy to guide the use and management of NWT water resources stemmed from:

  • Concerns from NWT residents about water resource management
  • Increasing water-related pressures from industrial development and transboundary influences
  • Climate change
  • A changing global economy

In 2008, the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) and the Government of Canada started working with representatives from Indigenous governments to develop a water stewardship strategy to address these concerns. Regulatory boards, agencies, environmental organizations, industry, academic institutions and the general public have been involved in the process.

This partnership resulted in the NWT Water Stewardship Strategy, originally released in 2010 and updated in 2018. This document lays out a clear path to bring all levels of government, agencies and the public together to maintain clean, abundant and productive waters in the NWT. 

After the strategy was released in 2010, three five-year action plans were developed and the current NWT Water Stewardship Strategy Action Plan (2021-2025), released in November 2021, builds on the momentum of the previous two action plans (2011-2015 and 2016-2020) and guides the third five-year implementation phase of the strategy.


  • Fall 2006 – Discussions at the first Keepers of the Water gathering focus on growing concerns about pressures on NWT waters, in neighbouring jurisdictions and transboundary and bilateral negotiations concerning the Mackenzie River Basin.

  • March 2007 – Members of the 15th Legislative Assembly pass a motion for the basic human right to water.

  • September 2007 – Two large gatherings, Keepers of the Water and Water Wise, are held, with discussions focusing on water resource management.

  • June 2008 – Northern Voices, Northern Waters: Towards a Water Resources Management Strategy for the Northwest Territories, a discussion paper on developing a water resource strategy, is released by the GNWT and the Government of Canada.

  • November 2008 – The Aboriginal Steering Committee, made up of representatives from Indigenous, territorial, and federal governments, is formed to guide the development of a draft strategy.

  • Fall-Winter 2008/2009 – Extensive engagement with community leadership is undertaken to discuss water stewardship in the NWT.

  • January-May 2009 – Workshops are held on "Vision and Principles," "Traditional Knowledge," "Information Needs" and "Strengthening Relationships."

  • October 2009 – A workshop on Taking Stock, reaching a shared understanding on the direction of the strategy to date, discussing best process for engagement, and beginning to identify implementation actions, is held in Yellowknife.

  • November 2009 – A draft strategy is tabled in the Legislative Assembly. 

  • November 2009 to March 2010 – Co-ordinated meetings and engagement activities are planned with Indigenous governments and organizations, communities, industry, co-management boards, and other water partners to discuss the draft strategy.

  • May 2010 – Northern Voices, Northern Waters: NWT Water Stewardship Strategy is released and tabled in the NWT Legislative Assembly. 

  • November 2010 – A workshop is held with the Aboriginal Steering Committee and other water partners to discuss an action plan for the strategy. 

  • May 2011 – NWT Water Stewardship: A Plan for Action, 2011-2015 is released and tabled in the NWT Legislative Assembly.

  • November 2011 – An implementation workshop, Keeping up the Momentum, is held to report on implementation underway and share ideas on ways to work together on future implementation activities. 

  • January 2013 – An implementation workshop, Strengthening our Progress, is held with water partners to review and discuss implementation activities and prioritize solutions and next steps for moving forward. 

  • January 2018 – The updated Northern Voices, Northern Waters: NWT Water Stewardship Strategy is released and tabled in the NWT Legislative Assembly.


A number of workshops took place during the development of Northern Voices, Northern Waters: NWT Water Stewardship Strategy.:

Two conferences related to the development of the strategy took place in 2009:

  • June 15-16, 2009 – Science in the Changing North (Conference report)
  • June 9-12, 2009 – Rosenberg International Forum on Water Policy to the Government of the Northwest Territories (Report)