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History made as first Canadian Indigenous water utility takes control of water management

Atlantic First Nations Water Authority sets milestone

November 8, 2022  By Ground Water Canada

Dartmouth, N.S. – Canada now has its first ever Indigenous water utility with the Atlantic First Nations Water Authority (AFNWA) setting a new milestone.

It puts control of water and wastewater management into the hands of First Nations. The transfer agreement was signed Monday by Potlotek First Nation Chief Wilbert Marshall of the Atlantic First Nations Water Authority, Carl Yates, CEO of AFNWA, and Patty Hajdu, the federal minister of Indigenous Services. It initiates the transfer of responsibility for the operation, maintenance, and capital upgrades of all water and wastewater assets in participating First Nations to the Indigenous-led AFNWA.

The transfer agreement enables First Nations to now officially join the water authority after receiving approval from their community members. Once complete, the AFNWA will assume responsibility for water and wastewater services for as many as 4,500 households and businesses located in up to 17 participating First Nations. This represents approximately 60 per cent of the on-reserve population of First Nation communities in Atlantic Canada.


AFNWA will support all water and wastewater operators to become certified to operate their respective facilities and maintain their certification through continuing education. The authority will work with staff to identify their career development goals and support them with education and on-the-job training, wherever possible. AFNWA will also work to develop capacity within communities by hiring trainees and supporting their career development.

The service delivery transfer agreement sets out both ISC’s and the AFNWA’s mutual obligations, accountability, and understanding for implementation. Through Indigenous Services Canada, the federal government has committed approximately $257 million in funding for this work, including $173 million over 10 years from Budget 2022 that will provide sustainable funding for operations and capital programs.

“This has been a long time in the making and we are grateful to the leadership and commitment from our communities to get us to this milestone,” Potlotek First Nation Chief Wilbert Marshall, chair of the board, Atlantic First Nations Water Authority, said. “We look forward to building capacity and increasing the level of service to standards enjoyed by other residents of Canada. We have blazed a trail for others to follow but that is the way of the Wabanaki who have always been first to see the dawn.”


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