Fort Resolution Youth Water Monitoring Project

Ecology North, in collaboration with the community of Fort Resolution, including Deninu Kue First Nation, Fort Resolution Metis Council, Deninu School, GNWT ENR, and the University of Saskatchewan, helped to develop a pilot project aimed at engaging Fort Resolution youth in cumulative impacts assessments related to water. We saw an opportunity to build on ongoing research and monitoring efforts in Fort Resolution by developing a program to engage community youth in aquatic cumulative effects monitoring, while also linking to ongoing high school science curriculum.

The core focus of the project, in addition to ongoing collection of data to assess cumulative water impacts in the NWT, was youth capacity building. One of the key goals of the project was to encourage youth to become knowledgeable and interested in carrying out monitoring work in their communities with researchers, scientists, technical staff and community organizations.

The project was broken into four learning sessions, which were a series of workshop style sessions that combined western science and traditional knowledge, hands-on activities, instruction and break-out group work. Each session focused on a different part of the research and monitoring process and gave students an opportunity to learn and try out new skills. Three detailed curriculum resource templates pertaining to water, ice and fish were also developed as part of the project. The curriculum resources are designed to provide guidance, activities and information for teachers interested in incorporating activities that can reflect learning about cumulative effects.

Over the course of the project students developed their own individual research projects on a topic of interest to them. The projects were student-led and student-driven and followed an inquiry-based learning process that was part of the experiential science curriculum taught by Mr. Ted Moes at Deninu School.

The project was recently compiled into a book, titled “Learning About Our Environment: Experiences from a youth-focused environmental research and monitoring project in Fort Resolution NWT”. The book highlights the collaborative project – what we did and why we did it – but really focuses on the work of the high school students from Deninu School.

Canada Water Week

Canada Water Week 2017 in the NWT

Every year, water education plays a central role in Ecology North’s Canada Water Week celebrations. This year, during the month of March, we visited schools in the communities of Inuvik, Norman Wells, Hay River, Aklavik, and Tsiigehtchic, to deliver interactive water education sessions for K to Grade 12. We conducted tests for pH and chlorine, using our Mobile Water Quality Lab. This activity was very hands-on, visual and thus highly effective at engaging students in learning about different aspects of water quality. The importance of water and aquatics systems was also communicated through different games and strategies taken from the Project WET Curriculum and Activity Guide. In total, approximately 230 students were reached by Ecology North’s school outreach activities. We received positive feedback from several teachers following our classroom visits. Here are some examples:

“Great activities…they engaged the students to learn more about water and how to protect water.” – Anonymous Exit Survey. Mackenzie Mountain School.

“The students were very engaged and wanted to volunteer. Great job!” – Anonymous Exit Survey. East Three Elementary School.

“Good student involvement – they loved it!” Anonymous Exit Survey. East Three Elementary School.

Ecology North also hosted and coordinated events in 9 different communities across the NWT. The events included film nights, our annual fish fry at the Snow Castle and a speaker panel. The panel discussion “Past, Present and Future of the Mackenzie River: A Discussion on Climate Change Impacts and Transboundary Waters” was hosted in collaboration with The Council of Canadians-NWT Chapter and the GNWT and it featured Bob Sandford as the keynote speaker for the evening. Panel members were Stephanie Yuill, Jennifer Fresque-Baxter, and Meaghan Beveridge with GNWT Environment and Natural Resources, and Catherine Lafferty with the Yellowknives Dene First Nation.

“While I realize you have some real problems that cannot be ignored, I can honestly say that I come up here as frequently as I can so I can be reminded of the principles that must guide the rest of the world and the actions to which we must commit if we are to achieve any meaningful level of water security and water-related climate stability globally. I use your example to demonstrate that the path forward to sustainability must be a path of principle based not just on sound public policy but on an ethical imperative. Managing natural resources is not just about economics; it is also about our shared humanity and our shared future.” Bob Sandford, May 23rd 2017, Yellowknife, NT.

Canada Water Week is a celebration of water from coast-to-coast-to-coast, held annually in the third week of March to coincide with World Water Day on March 22. Every March for the past six years, Ecology North has organized a series of water-related events in recognition of Canada Water Week. Our events range from school visits and film screenings to community water tours, eco-theatre productions, a fish fry, water curriculum development and more!

Thanks to the Government of the Northwest Territories for their continued support.

Take a look below at some of the things we’ve done in past years:

Canada Water Week 2016 in the NWT

Water Week 2016 was another big success. During the month of March Ecology North staff visited 16 classrooms in 6 different communities to deliver various water programs and activities. Our toolkit of education activities included a hands-on mobile water quality testing kit, a 3-D model of the Yellowknife River Watershed, a large NWT Watershed Map, and many other activities. In total, we reached approximately 210 students with our school outreach activities.

In addition to education activities, Ecology North also coordinated and hosted various public community events to celebrate Canada Water Week. The overarching intent behind all of the events was to encourage northerners to learn more about and truly appreciate our local watersheds in the NWT. In total, Ecology North hosted and coordinated 9 events in 7 different communities. Our existing and new partnerships with various groups and organizations throughout the NWT made it possible to do this. The events included different film nights, water treatment plant tours, a fish fry and speaker events. In total, we reached more than 400 people with our community outreach activities.

Leading up to the month of March, Ecology North’s water week activities also involved carrying out a preliminary research study to gather information and statistics pertaining to bottled water consumption in the NWT. This research, which is summarized in a Background Research Report on Bottled Water Consumption in the NWT, led to the launch of our #loveNWTwater campaign. Take a look at our #loveNWTwater campaign page to get involved and see where we are at!

Trout Lake Source Water Protection Planning

During the year of 2014-2015 Ecology North had the opportunity to work with the Sambaa K’e Dene Band (SKDB) of Trout Lake to develop the first source water protection plan in the NWT! In response to growing concerns about their drinking water (i.e., climate change impacts, industrial development, and historic waste sites), Sambaa K’e opted to complete a community source water protection plan. The plan was completed through a collaborative partnership approach with Ecology North, SKDB and the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENR), who provided both financial and technical support to help make the plan happen.

Source water refers to raw water from aquifers, streams or lakes that is used to supply drinking water systems. The purpose of source water protection planning is to prevent contaminants from entering a drinking water source prior to treatment, and thus it is often considered the first essential step to ensuring safe drinking water. The need for community source water protection planning is well recognized in the NWT Water Stewardship Strategy and Action Plan, and in 2012 GNWT ENR began taking the important initial steps towards addressing this need. The department hosted two community source water protection workshops to help introduce the concept of source water protection and build community capacity with respect to the development of community source water protection plans. The workshops also led to the development of a NWT Source Water Assessment and Protection Guidance Document, which is intended to help interested communities engage in source water protection planning.

The source water protection plan for Sambaa K’e is partly based on the NWT Source Water Assessment and Protection Guidance Document. The project brought Sambaa K’e community members and Elders together with watershed interest groups, government staff, and community staff to identify potential source water threats and to determine appropriate management actions to address those threats. In total, 21 potential contaminant sources were identified and mapped in the source water plan. A series of management actions, including hazardous waste remediation, were also prioritized and recorded in the plan. These management actions provide ongoing direction for future source water implementation initiatives in the community of Trout Lake.

Trout Lake Water Quality Sampling 2015-2016

The 2015-2016 Trout Lake Water Quality Sampling Project emerged from the Source Water Protection Planning Project that Ecology North undertook in partnership with the Sambaa K’e Dene Band (SKDB) of Trout Lake and Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) in 2014. The source water project resulted in the completion of a draft source water protection plan for the community of Trout Lake (completed in early 2015), the bulk of which consists of two main parts: 1) an inventory of potential water quality contaminant sources within the Trout Lake watershed; and 2) a list of desired management actions to address the potential contaminant sources identified.

Following the completion of the plan in 2015, the next step was to start moving towards implementing the priority source water actions identified in the plan. Although the priorities are diverse, there are several calls for additional water quality sampling near abandoned well and waste sites in the watershed.

As such, this project was developed as a first step towards implementing these calls for action. The purpose of the sampling project was to gain a better understanding of how abandoned well and waste sites may be impacting water quality in the Trout Lake watershed. The intent is that the results from this work will continue to provide insight into the ongoing source water protection planning and implementation processes in the community of Trout Lake. The SKDB and Ecology North, with support from ENR GNWT, initiated and carried out the first year of the sampling program during the summer and fall of 2015.

In total, nine samples were taken from five different sites identified as source water priorities by Trout Lake community members. The majority of samples were collected by members of the SKDB and sent to Yellowknife via charter plane. Parameters test included pH, total BTEX (hydrocarbons), conductivity, major ions, total trade metals and total mercury. All of the results were compared to the Canadian Water Quality Guidelines for the Protection of Aquatic Life, which are developed by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME).

Overall, the 2015 sampling results are positive. The amount of hydrocarbons (oil and gas chemicals) dissolved in the water was below the level that instruments can detect at all of the sample sites. Furthermore, the amount of total arsenic, molybdenum, nickel, lead, selenium and zinc in the water were below the CCME Guidelines for the Protection of Aquatic Life at all of the sampled sites. Although not alarming given existing water quality data in the area and what would be expected for sites of this nature, there were some exceedances in cadmium, copper, iron, total mercury and silver. Sites with exceedances have been flagged for continued monitoring through future work.

In early January 2016 Ecology North hosted a results meeting and open house in the community of Trout Lake. A plain language summary of the results was presented at the meting, which was attended by nearly one fifth of the community. These results were well received and fostered substantial interest among community members for additional training and continued water sampling in the community.

We used this opportunity to work together to discuss which sites are the main concerns for moving forward and to set community priorities for source water protection planning over the next year. The insights gathered from this meeting and the sampling results collected during the project are being used to inform the development of a more formal source water protection implementation plan for Trout Lake. The plan will provide a more detailed list of actions, timelines and targets for source water protection activities in Trout Lake, including our Hazardous Waste Clean Up Project in Trout Lake!