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Investigating Standards for Small Water and Wastewater Systems in Canada’s North

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Northerners have expressed concerns about the quality of wastewater treatment effluents and the risk of leakage from failing infrastructures

Significant investments have been made in water and wastewater infrastructure in Canada’s North, however water systems across the region have received poor grades in recent years and are generally below the Canadian average, with risk levels reported to be on the rise – especially in Indigenous communities. A lack of enforceable standards has been recognized as a significant factor for some jurisdictions, as well as gaps and challenges in capacity-building and certification of operators.

This report builds upon the CSA Group research report entitled Canada’s North: Discovering How Standards Can Contribute to Safety, Sustainability &Economic Growth by further investigating the possible role of standards and related instruments, such as the training and certification of personnel, for helping to ensure safe, stable, and accessible water and sanitation for the population of Canada’s North.

The report focuses on small scale water and wastewater systems servicing 500 people. Three broad objectives underlay the research:

a) To provide an assessment of the situation regarding standardization of small water/wastewater systems in Canada’s North, with an overview of standardization documents and their usage;

b) To examine gaps and challenges with these systems;

c) To provide recommendations on where standardization efforts would best be invested and in what form, particularly in terms of how standardization documents can be effectively used.

This paper should be of interest to northern water and wastewater practitioners, especially those authorities, regulators, educators, operators, and related service providers involved with small scale water and wastewater systems.

Information was gathered through a literature review, followed by an engagement exercise to survey and then interview water/wastewater stakeholders throughout Canada’s North.

Gaps were identified through the stakeholder interview process within the following themes:

  • Engagement and Involvement of Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous Perspectives
  • Ensuring Consistent Use and Accessibility to Best Practices
  • Managing Challenging Environmental Conditions
  • Capacity Building/Training and Continuing Education
  • Certification of Water and Wastewater Practitioners
  • Recruitment, Retention and Advancement of Operators

    An important contextual element is that water governance in Canada’s North is inherently complex. A number of major themes and corresponding recommendations were drawn from this research project with respect to the potential for standardization efforts. Of the themes identified, training and certification/classification were identified as a key area with many gaps, challenges and potential opportunities.

    Download the Report

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