Fact Sheet - Water and Wastewater Protocols

The results of the National Assessment of Water and Wastewater Systems for First Nation Communities include the estimated cost of upgrading First Nation water and wastewater systems to meet the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada's current water protocols. This fact sheet provides an overview of these protocols which are available in there entirety on the Department's website.


The Department has established three protocols for the design, construction, operation, maintenance, and monitoring of water and wastewater systems on reserve:

What is a centralized water or wastewater system?

A centralized water system is a communal, piped system with a centralized treatment plant. A centralized wastewater system is a similar system in which wastewater is collected by a piped collector system and transported to a central waste treatment facility.

These protocols are standards that provide direction to First Nation Band Councils on issues such as water treatment, management, and the design of water systems. These protocols compliment local provincial standards or regulations. Should the provincial standards ever be more stringent than the requirements of the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) protocols, then the higher objective shall be adhered to.

The protocols apply to water and wastewater systems that receive funding through AANDC and are necessary to maintain water quality and to protect the Government's substantial investments in First Nation water and wastewater services.

What is a decentralized water or wastewater system?

The term decentralized system refers to a group or groups of communal on-site water or wastewater systems that are managed by the First Nation bands. These systems do not have central treatment plants. Examples of decentralized systems would include wells, cisterns and septic systems.

Two of the three AANDC protocols are focused on providing standards for centralized drinking water and wastewater systems, such as piped systems with treatment plants. The last protocol is focused on smaller, band-managed decentralized systems.

By continually refining its methodology and approach, AANDC has made considerable progress over the last four years in ensuring that its water and wastewater protocols reflect that which is required to protect water on reserve.

Strengthening the water and wastewater protocols are an important component of the department's action plan, an immediate response to the findings of the National Assessment. AANDC will be reviewing and updating the protocols over the next year in collaboration with First Nations and other stakeholders. While these protocols and standards are helpful; they are not supported by effective and enforceable regulations. The protocols simply provide guidance to First Nations on the construction and management of their water systems.

The government will reintroduce legislation to support the creation of enforceable standards. This will be done in collaboration with First Nations in order to develop a regulatory regime for on-reserve water and wastewater.

Date: July 14, 2011

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