Shane Thompson: Water Stewardship

Ministers' Statements and Speeches

Yellowknife — March 29, 2021

Check against delivery 

 

Mr. Speaker, the NWT Water Stewardship Strategy, guided by the Aboriginal Steering Committee, represents a shared path forward for water stewardship and preservation with NWT residents and water partners.  Water partners such as Indigenous, federal and territorial governments, non-government organizations, research institutions and universities,  regulatory boards, communities and industry work together under the strategy to ensure our water remains clean and safe for future generations.

The success of the Water Strategy is based on four main areas that require concentrated efforts: Work Together, Know and Plan, Use Responsibly, and Check Our Progress. Examples of key responsibilities under each component include: negotiating and implementing transboundary water management agreements under the Work Together component; implementing research and monitoring throughout the Northwest Territories lakes and rivers under Know and Plan; reviewing and developing guidelines and regulations to clarify regulatory and environmental assessment processes under Use Responsibly; and regularly reviewing and reporting on implementation of activities in our Action Plans under Check Our Progress. 

Traditional knowledge is an integral part of the Water Strategy, providing valuable information and important guidance for all stewardship actions. Specific actions on the importance and inclusion of traditional knowledge are identified in all four components of the Water Strategy. The next Action Plan to support the Water Strategy will cover the period of 2021-2025 and will build on momentum we have gained over the last decade. This new plan will address current priorities for water stewardship in the Northwest Territories. 

As part of developing the next Action Plan, we have worked with and engaged our water partners to continue to understand NWT water priorities to ensure northern voices are reflected.

Mr. Speaker, we thank all who took time to participate. Upon finalizing the next Action Plan, we will release a What We Heard document that will show how this important engagement informed the plan.

Mr. Speaker, we are also making progress on modernizing the existing Yukon-NWT Transboundary Water Management Agreement signed in 2002.  We have updated the agreement that commit us to responsibly manage shared waters in the Peel and Mackenzie Delta basins, and developed a similar new agreement for the Liard River Basin.

These new agreements are consistent with the Water Strategy and the 2015 agreements signed with Alberta and British Columbia.  Consultation has occurred and public engagement ended on March 15. We are now reviewing this feedback to ensure that it is addressed.

Mr. Speaker, beginning last summer, the water levels on Great Slave Lake reached record highs, as did water levels in many rivers flowing into it.

We know Northerners have questions about why this happened, and we are actively working to provide answers.

Our government, alongside experts from the governments of Alberta, British Columbia, and Canada, worked together on an analysis of our major shared waterways, such as the Peace and Athabasca Rivers.  

We learned that these high-water levels were driven by high snow and rainfall across northern British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Based on this information, we anticipate Great Slave Lake water levels will not likely return to normal for a while. Current conditions are unprecedented and what happens over the next few months will depend on several things: like the timing and volume of precipitation, the timing and rate of snow an ice melt in the spring and the thickness of river and lake ice. 

Mr. Speaker, partnerships are what water stewardship is all about.  This government is committed to working together to ensure that the waters of the Northwest Territories remain clean, abundant and productive for all time.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.