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First Nations Water Management Strategy:

Plans, Spending and Results

Name of Horizontal Initiative: First Nations Water and Wastewater Action Plan (FNWWAP)

Name of lead department(s): Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC)

Lead department program: Community Infrastructure

Start date of the Horizontal Initiative: April 1, 2008

End date of the Horizontal Initiative: March 31, 2014

Total federal funding allocation (start to end date): $2,330,800,000

$735,639,806 for 2008-2009 and 2009-2010. Of this amount, $202,500,000 in each of 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 are funded from existing reference levels. New funds of $165,318,143 in 2008-2009 and $165,321,663 in 2009-2010, including employee benefit plans and Public Works and Government Services Canada accommodation requirements were sourced from the Fiscal Framework, as confirmed in Budget 2008. Budget 2010 extended the program for an additional two years, with an additional $845,547,800 in investments into water and wastewater infrastructure, including funds from existing reference levels.

Over 2012-2013 and 2013-2014, the Government of Canada has allocated $749,466,828 to fund on-reserve water/wastewater infrastructure and complementary activities through the First Nations Water and Wastewater Action Plan (FNWWAP) - $671 million through AANDC and an additional $64.8 million through Health Canada (HC). This includes a Budget 2012 commitment of $330.8 million in targeted funding.

Description of the Horizontal Initiative (including funding agreement): The prime objective of the FNWWAP is to support First Nation communities on reserves in bringing their drinking water and wastewater services to a level and quality of service comparable to those enjoyed by Canadians living in communities of similar size and location. There are five key activity areas in the FNWWAP: infrastructure investments; operations and maintenance; training; monitoring and awareness; and standards.

To meet the objectives of the FNWWAP, several program enhancements have been introduced, including a national engineering assessment of existing water and wastewater facilities; consultations on a new federal legislative framework for safe drinking water; increased training through the Circuit Rider Training Program; modification of existing policies related to small water and septic systems and agreements for water and wastewater services; investment in a National Wastewater Program; and development of waterborne illness procedures.

The FNWWAP was implemented as part of government commitments in the 2007 Speech from the Throne, Budget 2008, Budget 2010, and Budget 2012 to support First Nations’ access to safe drinking water. It supports the continued commitment to promote access to clean water in Aboriginal communities announced in the 2011 Speech from the Throne.

The FNWWAP supports AANDC's Strategic Outcome, The Land and Economy: Full participation of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis individuals and communities in the economy. The FNWWAP also supports the HC strategic outcome of the department's First Nations and Inuit Health Programming and Services: Better health outcomes and reduction of health inequalities between First Nations and Inuit and other Canadians.

More information is available at these websites:

Shared outcome(s): The FNWWAP works toward the achievement of four outcomes:

  • First Nation communities have an increased capacity to address potential water quality problems;
  • Health risks associated with water quality and supply are reduced;
  • All First Nation community water and wastewater facilities meet federal standards; and
  • First Nation communities have increased confidence in their drinking water.

Governance structure(s): The FNWWAP is a successor to the joint First Nations Water Management Strategy (2003-2008) and the AANDC Plan of Action for Drinking Water (2006-2008). A memorandum of understanding has been in place between AANDC and HC since 2005 regarding data sharing related to drinking water. AANDC shares information on the proposed water and wastewater infrastructure investments; the annual inspections of water and wastewater treatment plants; and action related to drinking water advisories. Conversely, HC shares information such as drinking water sample results that do not meet the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality and reasons for recommending drinking water advisories. At the working level, the Strategic Water Management on Reserve Committee, which includes representatives from HC, AANDC, Environment Canada and the Assembly of First Nations, provides a forum for discussion to share information and co-ordinate joint action, although this is not a formal decision making body. It also provides integrated and co-ordinated leadership to ensure safe drinking water for First Nation communities and to implement the FNWWAP.

Directors general and assistant deputy ministers from HC and AANDC meet when needed to exchange and coordinate action on all relevant issues related to the FNWWAP.

Planning Highlights

Since 2011-2012, AANDC has taken action to respond strategically to the findings of the National Assessment of Water and Wastewater in First Nation communities. The Government of Canada is reducing water and wastewater system risk through three pillars of action:

Enhanced capacity building and operation training:

  • Increase planned investments in operation and maintenance and training from $109.5 million to $162.5 million to reduce risk, prevent deterioration of water and wastewater systems, and protect future investments.
  • Support the creation of regional hubs to monitor, and even operate, systems remotely.
  • Increase accountability by instituting tighter controls and better oversight (based on risk) on operations and maintenance funding.
  • Increase the focus on maintenance management planning.
  • Roll out new Circuit Rider Trainer Program guidelines; the standardized program will support operators to improve operation and maintenance of the systems, and respond to input from technical working groups.
  • Support First Nations/First Nation organizations in the development of regional hubs or centres of expertise to enable back-up operator capacity in communities.

Enforceable Water and Wastewater Standards:

  • Bill S-8 was introduced in the Senate on February 29, 2012 and passed without amendment on June 18, 2012. The Bill received First Reading in the House of Commons on June 19, 2012 and Second Reading on November 1, 2012. Upon Royal Assent, AANDC will begin formal discussions on regulatory development with First Nation organizations.
  • The Environment Canada Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations went into effect on June 29, 2012.

Capital Investments in 2013-2014:

  • AANDC prioritizes capital investments to target high and medium risk systems. AANDC’s risk assessments take into account an extensive set of factors that could lead to problems with water/wastewater systems. Work is currently underway to build and upgrade numerous water and wastewater systems on First Nation reserves across Canada.
  • Economic Action Plan 2012 included $330.8 million over two years to help sustain progress made to build and renovate water infrastructure on reserve and to support the development of a long-term strategy to improve water quality in First Nation communities. Of the planned investments in 2013-2014 of $159.5 million for a total of 286 infrastructure projects, 30 major capital projects are due for completion by March 2014. The projects range from feasibility studies to minor repairs to construction of new systems, and include projects which will take several years to complete.

Contact information

Gail Mitchell
Director General
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada
Community Infrastructure Branch
Telephone: 819-953-4636