(a) For fiscal year 2001-02, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, INAC, had estimated that approximately $185 million would be spent in capital funding for upgrading and expansion of water and sewer services in first nation communities. A further $40 million was planned for the operation and maintenance, O&M, of water and sewer facilities and another $2.5 million on operator training. Actual accounting of expenditures for water and sewer facilities and related O&M for 2001-02 will not be available until August 2002.
(b) As of 2000-01, the percentage of houses without basic water and sewer services had been reduced from roughly 6.8% to 5.6%.
(c) Of the 89,897 houses, approximately 1,612 homes had no water service and 4,997 had no sewage service as of 2000-01. These homes are located in a number of mostly northern communities. Data on housing units without basic water and sewer services for 2001-02 will not be available until late August 2002.
(d) The major elements of the first nations water management strategy, FNWMS, will include: the establishment of clearly defined and enforceable standards; a plan to upgrade and build water and waste water facilities to meet established design, construction and water quality standards; a plan to ensure all water and waste water operators receive training, including the need for certification consistent with provincial requirements. We will provide a copy of the strategy once it is finalized.
(e) Work on the majority of water and sewer facilities identified in the 1995 INAC/Health Canada study has been or is now being completed. In addition, work has also been ongoing on other systems subsequently identified as needing improvements to preserve the health and safety of reserve residents. The remaining issues will be resolved after the completion of engineering studies or through the monitoring of operation and maintenance practices.
(f) A comprehensive on-site inspection of all first nation water and waste water facilities is nearing completion. As these assessments are completed, results are being shared with the individual community and, where potential risks are identified, necessary precautions or corrective measures are being taken. Upon completion of the facilities assessment in the summer of 2002, INAC will have up to date information on the number of community water and waste water systems that do not meet federal health and safety parameters as well as on the level of improvement required in the area of operation and maintenance.
In 2000-01, INAC took measures to expand the current circuit rider training program, CRTP, to improve operation and maintenance of water facilities. This expansion continued in 2001-02 with the objective of including all operators who have not yet received CRTP or equivalent training. Additional funding from central sources of $1.2 million for 2001-02 allowed INAC to expand the CRTP to an additional 163 operators for a total of 469 water and sewer operators. Also, the number of operators taking certification training and exams increased from 49 to 96. Projected expenditures for 2001-02 for training of water and wastewater systems operators are expected to be approximately $3.2 million.
It is planned to continue expansion and enhancement of training programs, to ensure all operators have the skills, knowledge and experience required to fulfill their responsibilities supported by the introduction of mandatory skill and training requirements for all operators and the certification of operators within three years.
It is also planned to develop a public awareness campaign targeting first nation leaders, administrators and individual homeowners.
(g) The assurance of safe and clean water for first nations is one of INAC’s most important priorities and an essential component of the Gathering Strength initiative that calls for “Supporting Strong Communities, People and Economies.”
The Speech from the Throne stated that the federal government would fulfill its direct responsibilities for water, including the safety of water supplies on reserves. It also stated that the federal government would lead in developing stronger national guidelines for water quality by enhancing scientific research and continuing its collaboration with partners.
Between 1995 and 2001, the Government of Canada, through INAC, has invested over $560 million to address the urgent upgrade and the expansion of water and sewer services in first nation communities. This is in addition to the $100 million to $125 million in capital normally provided annually by INAC for water and sewer projects.
INAC continues to work with first nations, Health Canada and other partners on ongoing efforts to provide a supply of clean, safe and secure drinking water in first nation communities.
The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development indicated in the House of Commons on May 29 that he would be coming forward very shortly with an announcement to improve the system even further.