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.