Ground Water Canada

Report analyzes First Nations drinking water spending

December 8, 2017  By Ground Water Canada

Dec. 5, 2017, Ottawa – Parliamentary Budget Officer Jean-Denis Fréchette released a report Dec. 7 analyzing federal spending on drinking water and wastewater treatment on First Nations reserves. 

In the report Fréchette suggests the government does not have the budget to end to long-term boil water advisories on reserves within five years, a commitment of the 2015 budget.

The report says total historical spending since 2011-2012 and the planned spending announced in Budget 2016 will cover only 70 per cent of the total investment needs. The estimated capital and operating and maintenance costs are considerably more than the actual and planned Aboriginal governments’ funding for First Nations water and wastewater infrastructure.


This report analyzes federal spending on water and wastewater treatment on First Nations reserves. Using data collected from the Water and Wastewater National Assessment undertaken in 2011, along with other socioeconomic, demographic and system data, the PBO has estimated the costs of upgrading water and wastewater systems on First Nation reserves.

It also classifies on-reserve source water. At the national level, 81,026 (72 per cent) on-reserve homes are served by piped systems, 15,451 (13.5 per cent) homes are serviced with water truck deliveries, and 14,479 are serviced by individual wells or systems serving less than five homes. The remaining homes (1.5 per cent) had no water service.

Nearly half of the on-reserve water systems use a ground water source, six per cent rely on a ground water under the direct influence of surface water (GUDI) source, and 29 per cent use surface water. The remaining systems (19 per cent) relied on a Municipal Type Agreement. The latter was mostly used in Yukon, where 42 per cent of the drinking water systems are on local reserves; Alberta (30 per cent), Atlantic (26 per cent) and British Columbia (25 per cent).

Read the full report, Budget Sufficiency for First Nations Water and Wastewater Infrastructure.

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