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Atlantic First Nations Water Authority and Canada sign agreement to transfer responsibility for water and wastewater services

June 25, 2020  By Ground Water Canada

Halifax, Unceded Traditional Mi’Kmaq Territory, N.S. – The Ministry of Indigenous Services and the Atlantic First Nations Water Authority have signed a framework agreement that creates a path for the transfer of water and wastewater services for 15 First Nations communities in Atlantic Canada from Indigenous Services Canada to the AFNWA.

In a news release, the federal government recognized Indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination and is committed to supporting First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities to independently deliver services and address the unique needs of their communities.

The framework agreement outlines the negotiation process and the roles and responsibilities for all parties to transfer responsibility over the control and management of water and wastewater services. This agreement advances a new First Nations-led service delivery model and represents a step towards self-determination and greater control for First Nations over service delivery in their communities.


The framework agreement represents a key milestone for this innovative initiative as the AFNWA continues to work towards full autonomous operations by spring 2022.

Once the transfer is complete, the AFNWA will assume responsibility and liability for water and wastewater services to over 4,500 households and businesses on reserves, which represents approximately 60 per cent of First Nations that live on reserves in Atlantic Canada.

Quick facts

  • The AFNWA is a First Nations-controlled central water authority that will support 15 Atlantic First Nations communities to effectively upgrade, manage and maintain their water and wastewater services.
  • The AFNWA was formally established in 2018, after a multi-year process which included community engagements that informed the design of its “hub and spoke” delivery model. The authority will continue to engage with First Nations communities and organizations so that their experience, expertise and best practices are integrated into their service delivery model.
  • The AFNWA was established thanks to the First Nations Clean Water Initiative, a collaborative effort with the Atlantic Policy Congress (APC), interested First Nations and ISC.
  • ISC and the AFNWA, as part of this framework agreement towards transfer of responsibilities, will develop a long-term funding arrangement which can facilitate access to capital by the utility.
  • ISC provided $2.5 million to the AFNWA for establishing the water authority.
  • This is the first framework agreement for a First Nations-led water authority in Canada.
  • While there are no long-term drinking water advisories on public systems on reserves in Atlantic Canada, work continues across the region to maintain and update water infrastructure to improve water quality and prevent future drinking water advisories.
  • This model is designed to be able to integrate new communities into the utility and could capably manage water and wastewater services for all Atlantic First Nations communities.

Associated links

  • Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs
  • Water in First Nations communities
  • Investing in First Nations community infrastructure

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