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How CWQA and its members can assist in addressing clean-water concerns across the country

Wednesday, November 1, 2017   (0 Comments)
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Picking up the Gauntlet: How CWQA and its members can assist in addressing clean-water concerns across the country



According to Watertoday.ca there are over a thousand Boil Water Advisories (BWA) across Canada today. Canada boasts the largest number of freshwater sources in the world and proudly chants that water is life. Once we consider the potability of this water it becomes clear that something is seriously wrong with the picture below.


The powers that be across Canada have been far from perfect in delivering life’s most essential need to all communities outside of formal municipal-style developments. It is fair to say that the state of water quality especially in many First Nations and Aboriginal communities is poor and needs improving.


While provincial and federal governments vow to deliver safer and viable solutions; the Canadian Water Quality Association sees opportunity for ingenuity in unconventional approaches. Our members, who are experts in everything water-treatment from source to tap are also closely tied to their local environments and hold a deep understanding of the local aquifers and water quality conditions. All these are the hallmarks of custom solutions for decentralized communities and very small municipal-type systems.


CWQA’s Vision

At the CWQA we strongly believe in and seek to partner on small systems approaches. These can be the ideal decentralized, customized and locally operated solution for any community facing systemic water quality challenges, where the traditional municipal approach is not economical or feasible. It also warrants emphasis that we strongly support- the principle of empowering each community with not only the physical system, equipment but also the skillsets, qualifications and operating authority to maintain, sustain and adapt these solutions for decades.


Putting small-systems training at the top of the skills list offers the abilities to train and apprentice likely operating authorities and technicians to work from and on decentralized water systems (First Nations or other). If this sound like a novel approach it bears mentioning that there are already many success stories across Canada including but not limited to Lytton First Nations (BC), Peace Hills (Alberta) and Oka (Quebec). This approach eliminates many limitations around minimum system-size requirements that have hindered implementation and funding acquisition in the past. Flexible systems also deliver the right solutions to the right scenarios- be it bottled water, very small centralized systems or residential/commercial point-of-use or point-of-entry applications. The ideal solution is trained and qualified local people supported by good engineering, a robust supply chain and the governance support to deliver the chosen solutions.


In May, CWQA and its members gathered in Kamloops, BC to explore ideas on how our industry could connect with First Nations Health Authority, BC Centre for Disease Control, local operators and local community members for collaboration. What we learned from the provincial players was encouraging in model and in practice.

In the past, the traditional model of delivery focused on centralized municipal-type approaches and funding resulting in a one model approach that was often impractical for very-small or off grid communities. The alternate solution to cater to very small system needs, integrating decentralized, residential or even non-traditional methods was also just as fiscally challenging because of the cost of engineering reviews requirements.  Often the cost to deliver clean water to 6 homes was burdened by the same engineering cost to review systems sized for a small town. This was a caveat that the industry sought to fill with the development of acceptable product standards, modernized code requirements, and acceptable and recognized training; not just for First Nations scenarios but for all water scenarios in Canada.



Modeling on Success

As an example, the Res’Eau Waternet operationalized to offer water systems engineering support in partnership with University of British Columbia in a stellar example with Lytton First Nations. This level of engineering support may be a first in Canada in that it offered a feasible and cost effective engineered solutions approach which resulted in a better and scaled solution for smaller communities. CWQA was honoured to have their operator Mr. Jim Brown speak at our Kamloops Spring event. Mr. Brown stated that this partnership and its success was first and foremost forged by building trust between the parties involved and the host community. Lytton has been successfully operating their decentralized, custom designed water treatment system since 2015.


CWQA envisions taking Lytton as a model:

o   Coupling this with our local members offering installation expertise and equipment and being able to locally service, operate, train and support these solutions and there is a win-win approach

o   Add in the experience of the ability to train First Nations operators on their own systems, creating a sustainable approach

In the last decade, we have worked with several successful members doing this sort of work, trained water treatment professionals from the aboriginal community so that they can be viable service providers and with ResEau operationalized to offer engineering support and expert assistance, the future looks bright indeed for other approaches to be accepted by INAC.

Modernizing policy, in this environment will take the combined efforts of industry, our national assembly of First Nation Communities and the willingness of INAC. Another way must be found otherwise we are not fulfilling the commitment and objective of delivering clean and safe drinking water to ALL Canadians. 

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