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Water Today Title November 19, 2018

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Update 2018/10/22
First Nation Water


72 DOWN, 68 TO GO - MORE LONG-TERM FIRST NATION DWAS HAVE BEEN LIFTED THAN REMAIN IN PLACE





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By Cori Marshall

Early in October Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) announced the lifting of four long-term drinking water advisories in First Nations Communities. Cowichan Tribes was lifted on September 12, Adams Lake Indian Band on September 13, Pikangikum First Nation on September 17, and in the Canupawakpa Dakota First Nation on September 28. There was a system that was at risk of becoming a long-term DWA in Shamattawa First Nation that had an advisory lifted at the beginning of September.

These announcements are part of the federal government's commitment to ending all long-term DWAs by March 2021. What is important here is that for the first time since this government had engaged to ensure that all First Nations communities have access to safe drinking water, there are more DWAs that have been lifted than remain to be addressed.

Since 2015 72 long-term DWAs have been lifted in First Nations communities, and 68 remain in place. WaterToday had the opportunity to speak with the Minister of Indigenous Services, Hon. Jane Philpott, about the development and the process that the Liberal government has embarked upon.


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Minister Philpott attributed the progress toward the government's goal to preparation and long-term funding. Once funding was in place "it gave communities time to work on the design that was appropriate for their geographic and environmental circumstances," the Minister said. This approach also allowed communities to "ensure that all the right equipment and construction materials would arrive in these locations, some of which are remote.

    "The projects that got started in 2016 have reached there completion, everybody is trained, the environmental health officers have done all the necessary tests, we hope that this will be a continued trend over the coming months that we are going to see the completion of projects that have been underway for some time."

    Jane Philpott, Minister of Indigenous Services

The Minister believes that the government's approach put the communities in a better position to deal with new DWAs as they come into effect and addressing them in the early stages before they are entered on the long-term advisory list.

Minister Philpott said that "this happens in a number of mechanisms." She added, "one of the pieces is the human resources work that is taking place in terms of training good water operators, making sure they are supported in their work and will help in preventing challenges along the way."

    "We are investing in communities when we see vulnerable systems that they get the support they need to get ahead of potential problems, they know that there should be communication with us if they have concerns about needing a new system down the road."

    Jane Philpott, Minister of Indigenous Services

There have always been challenges in addressing clean water issues. Minister Philpott said that "it is not easy to have good systems and to ensure the design, construction and maintenance of these facilities, [...] one of the challenges is continuing to support communities for the operating and maintenance cost."

"We are currently addressing that now and talking to communities about what kind of support they need going forward, it's one thing to build a good water system, if you don't have a plan to maintain it and you don't have people to operate it, that is a real problem," Minister Philpott said.

"We are turning our attention now to operations and maintenance, skills training and development, retention of a good workforce," the Minister said, "the other piece that we are starting to look to more and more is, [...] you also need a distribution system." There are homes in some communities that are not connected to a distribution system "there is work to be done there," Minister Philpott said.

The government continues to work toward its goal of eliminating all long-term DWAs in First Nations Communities by March 2021. As progress is being made on the list of long-term water issues they are turning their attention to the next step, operating the water systems and making sure everyone is connected.

cori.marshall@watertoday.ca




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