Rivers to Oceans Day

Rivers to Oceans Day is an annual education blitz on all things rivers to oceans. It is hosted outdoors (rain or shine!), at the Somba K’e Civic Plaza in Yellowknife, during the second week of June.

Up to 24 stations, hosted by various government departments, municipalities, universities, non-profits, and other organizations, are set up around the plaza. Stations host different activities which cover a range of topics, including fish dissection, water safety races, and water quality testing experiments. Students in grade 1 and 5 from across Yellowknife and nearby communities are invited to take part in this day of fun and learning.

Rivers to Oceans Day is hosted in partnership with the GNWT’s department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Read our article in Above&Beyond: Rivers to Oceans Day, Connecting humans, the land, and aquatic ecosystems

Check back soon for more photos!

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!

Bottled Water in the NWT

The rapid increase in bottled water consumption has raised a number of environmental and social concerns, in Canada and abroad. These concerns largely stem from the negative environmental impacts associated with manufacturing, transporting, and disposing of single use plastic water bottles, in addition to the social issues of selling a substance that many consider a ‘public good’.

In 2016, there was no public data about bottled water consumption in the NWT. This paper is an effort to address that data gap. Two broad goals guided our research aimed at helping to fill the NWT bottled water data gap:

  1. To gather baseline information about the amount of bottled water consumed in the NWT in 2014-2015; and,
  2. To communicate this new information to the public in an informative and relatable way.

This report provides a brief overview of the research undertaken to achieve these goals.

Click below to read the report:

Bottled Water in the NWT:
Background Research Report on Bottled Water Consumption in the NWT

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) and Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) in 2014.

Following the completion of the plan in 2015, there were 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 Sambaa K’e watershed.


The majority of sampling was done by SKDB members during the summer and fall of 2015. In total, nine samples were taken from five different sites identified as source water priorities by Sambaa K’e community members. 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 were positive. At all sites, arsenic, molybdenum, nickel, lead, selenium and zinc were below the CCME Guidelines for the Protection of Aquatic Life. No hydrocarbons (oil and gas chemicals) were detected at these sites. There were some exceedances in cadmium, copper, iron, total mercury and silver, these sites were flagged for continued monitoring through future work.

Results Meeting

In early January 2016 Ecology North hosted a results meeting and open house in Sambaa K’e, nearly one fifth of the community attended this meeting. These results were well received and fostered substantial interest among community members for additional training and continued water sampling in the community. 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 Sambaa K’e. The plan will provide a more detailed list of actions, timelines and targets for source water protection activities, including our Hazardous Waste Clean Up Project.

Click below to open the sampling result summary:

2015 Water Quality Sampling Result Summary

Get to Know Your Watershed! Teacher Resource Guide

This Teacher Resource Guide was developed for northern teachers and organizations to help teach and engage students in learning about watersheds. The guide was developed by Ecology North with financial support from Environment and Natural Resources, Government of the Northwest Territories.

Watersheds are important features in our landscape that teach us about how water flows, how rivers are created and how land and water ways are connected. Other topics such as geology, weather, topography, land cover, land uses and water quality can also be incorporated when teaching students about watersheds.

The guide provides background information about watersheds and their features and functions, with an emphasis on watersheds in the Northwest Territories (NWT). The background material also includes a list of key watershed terms (bolded words), and additional books, video and website resources.
Three watershed-related lessons are laid out in this guide. Each lesson is designed to engage students in a hands-on and interactive watershed model building activity. Through the lessons students learn by doing, thinking, researching and experimenting. The three lessons range in grade level and duration, from a 60 minute upper elementary lesson, to a multi-session high school lesson. Several assessment and extension options are provided for each lesson.

Contact us for a free physical copy, or click below to download the guide:

Get to Know Your Watershed!
A Teacher Resource Guide for Northern Watershed Education

Sambaa K’e 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 Sambaa K’e

Click below to read the report:

Community of Sambaa K’e Source Water Protection Plan

Pepper and the Mighty Mackenzie

As part of Canada Water Week in 2014, Ecology North developed an educational activity in support of the Northwest Territories Water Stewardship Strategy. The book is for children of all ages and follows Pepper the Sand Piper as she explores the mighty Mackenzie River.

Click below to download the activity book:

Pepper and the Mighty Mackenzie

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.

Click below to read the teaching resource that was developed for this pilot project:

Fort Resolution Youth Monitoring Project:
Draft Teaching Resources Prepared for Pilot Use in Fort Resolution

Climate Change Impacts on Northern Water and Wastewater

The provision of clean drinking water and the effective management of wastewater (including solid waste leachate) are fundamentally important to maintaining environmental, social, and economic health.

In 2010, Ecology North worked collaboratively with Wekweètì, Déline, and Tsiigehtchic to to assess the vulnerability of their water and wastewater systems to climate change and to create a protocol that may be used by other NWT communities to do the same.

The protocol and individual community assessments can be found below.

Protocol to assess the vulnerability of northern water and wastewater systems to climate change impacts

This protocol is designed to guide communities in an initial assessment of the current and
potential impacts of climate change on their water and wastewater systems. This protocol
presents some background information on the potential impacts of climate change on
water and wastewater systems and guides communities through the process of:

  • Identifying the potential impacts of climate change on their water and wastewater systems;
  • Evaluating the likelihood of an impact occurring (the sensitivity of water and wastewater systems to climate change); and
  • Determining the severity of the impact (the consequences of an impact occurring).

Assessment of the vulnerability of Wekweètì’s water and wastewater systems to climate change impacts 

This report present a general discussion of climate change impacts and then examines the
specific impacts that may affect Wekweètì’s water and wastewater systems.

Assessment of the vulnerability of Deline’s water and wastewater systems to climate change impacts 

This report present a general discussion of climate change impacts and then examines the
specific impacts that may affect Déline’s water and wastewater systems.

Assessment of the vulnerability of Tsiigehtchic’s water and wastewater systems to climate change impacts (NOTE: link to this assessment will be added shortly. June 2020)

Ecology North worked with Tsiigehtchic to create a community climate change adaptation plan. This report is in addition to the community climate change adaptation plan.

Navigating the Waters of Change

The purpose of this paper is to provide a preliminary assessment of the potential impacts of climate change on water and wastewater systems in the NWT and recommend actions to increase the capacity of communities to respond and adapt to changes.

This paper explores the current and predicted climactic changes in the NWT, looking specifically at the impact of increasing precipitation and temperature. The paper considers effects such as permafrost thaw, increased water turbidity, and increase in wastewater levels and the impact they may have on drinking water quality and wastewater treatment in communities across the NWT

Click below to read the paper:

Navigating the Waters of Change:
Strengthening the Capacity of NWT Communities to Respond to the Impacts of Climate Change on Municipal Water and Wastewater Systems