Constance Lake First Nation
Water Management Action Plan
Constance Lake First Nation (CLFN) has been on a long journey with water. Elders tell stories of water staining their clothes and dishes brown despite a water plant that treated drinking water from the lake. Throughout the 1990s algae blooms caused problems with the water plant and affected the quality of water delivered to the residents. These occurred occasionally at first, but over time lasted longer and became more severe.
As the new millennium began, the community began to think about other sources of water, including well water. They studied other possibilities, but all the options seemed too expensive and too difficult to get the federal Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (now Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada) to fund. The water plant was also seriously aging by this point and both the equipment and the structure of the plant was regularly failing. In 2005, 2007, 2008, and 2010, the community was placed on boil water advisories by Health Canada as a result of poor water quality, persistent blue-green algae blooms, or equipment issues with the water plant. This caused significant hardship and costs for the community. In 2010, the community declared a State of Emergency as a result of the long-term boil water advisory. This was no longer just a challenge- it was now a water crisis.
In response, our consultants reached out to industry, government and community resources in our network to work the problem. By July of 2012, the team included our consultants, aquatic experts and water engineers from AECOM and Hutchinson Environmental, technical support from water industry professionals at Napier Reid and GE Water, and government support from the Matawa Tribal Council, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and the Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs. The team came together with the pressing goal of relieving the boil water advisory and creating a plan to find water supply alternatives.
We held a workshop with students from CLFN to gather the input of youth for a vision of sustainable water management and facilitated discussions between community representatives, water plant management staff and environmental researchers to address concerns surrounding the lack of confidence in water safety and present findings of ongoing research. We worked with the community to leverage federal, provincial and community funding to develop and implement a detailed Water Management Action Plan to find a secure water source and innovative treatment solution.
We worked alongside CLFN to acquire the resources and expertise needed to develop a strategic and feasible plan to rebuild its water treatment system around a trustworthy groundwater supply. The Action Plan provides community informed priorities for future water supply development, communications to the community on drinking water quality and restoring Constance Lake water quality for traditional and recreational uses.
In 2014, SVS organized and hosted the “Groundswell” conference at the University of Guelph as an effort to continue improving the well-being and capacity of CLFN and help other communities advance through similar challenges. It consisted of two days of concurrent workshop sessions at the University, and a third day of tours to water treatment and groundwater research facilities. The goal of the conference was to create a platform for stories to be shared and for a broader group of people to come together and examine the role that meaningful cooperation can play between communities, governments and experts when addressing water crises.
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