Source Water Protection Planning for Ontario First Nations Communities: Case Studies Identifying Challenges and Outcomes

Source Water Protection Planning for Ontario First Nations Communities: Case Studies Identifying Challenges and Outcomes

Collins, L., McGregor, D., Allen, S., Murray, C., & Metcalfe, C. (2017). Source water protection planning for Ontario First Nations communities: Case studies identifying challenges and outcomes. Water, 9(7), 550.

After the Walkerton tragedy in 2000, where drinking water contamination left seven people dead and many suffering from chronic illness, the Province of Ontario, Canada implemented policies to develop Source Water Protection (SWP) plans. Under the Clean Water Act (2006), thirty-six regional Conservation Authorities were mandated to develop watershed-based SWP plans under 19 Source Protection Regions. Most First Nations in Ontario are outside of these Source Protection Regions and reserve lands are under Federal jurisdiction. This paper explores how First Nations in Ontario are attempting to address SWP to improve drinking water quality in their communities even though these communities are not part of the Ontario SWP framework. The case studies highlight the gap between the regulatory requirements of the Federal and Provincial governments and the challenges for First Nations in Ontario from lack of funding to implement solutions to address the threats identified in SWP planning. This analysis of different approaches taken by Ontario First Nations shows that the Ontario framework for SWP planning is not an option for the majority of First Nations communities, and does not adequately address threats originating on reserve lands. First Nations attempting to address on-reserve threats to drinking water are using a variety of resources and approaches to develop community SWP plans. However, a common theme of all the cases surveyed is a lack of funding to support implementing solutions for the threats identified by the SWP planning process. Federal government initiatives to address the chronic problem of boil water advisories within Indigenous communities do not recognize SWP planning as a cost-effective tool for improving drinking water quality.