First Nations Water and Wastewater System Risk

Access PDF (471 KB)

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) conducts annual performance inspections (APIs) to determine the risk levels of INAC-funded water and wastewater systems. A First Nations water or wastewater system receives a low-risk rating if its inspection reveals a low chance of producing unsafe drinking water or poorly treated wastewater; such a system should be able to continue working effectively even if problems occur. A high-risk system might produce water or wastewater of equal quality to that of a low-risk system, but might not be capable of responding adequately in the event of a problem; for example, if short-term source water contamination were to occur due to flooding, the operation of a low-risk system should be able to tackle the problem with minimal service interruption, whereas a high-risk system may not.

Of the 699 INAC-funded First Nations water systems requiring inspections in 2014–2015, 395 (57%) were found to have a low risk of producing unsafe drinking water in the event of a problem, compared to 194 of 719 (27%) water systems inspected during the National Assessment.Footnote [1] Similarly, 216 of 446 (48%) INAC-funded First Nations wastewater systems requiring inspections in 2014–2015 were found to be at low risk of releasing poorly treated wastewater in the event of a problem, compared to 162 of 482 (34%) wastewater systems inspected during the National Assessment.

Between the National Assessment and 2013–2014 (the latest time period for which detailed data are available), the percentage of high-risk water systems has decreased to 18% (127 of 693 systems) from 37% (268 of 719 systems), and the percentage of high-risk wastewater systems has decreased to 6% (28 of 444 systems) from 14% (69 of 482 systems). Over the same period, the percentage of medium-risk water systems has remained relatively stable from 36% (257 of 719 systems) to 37% (256 of 693 systems), and the percentage of medium-risk wastewater systems has decreased from 52% (251 of 482 systems) to 41% (184 of 444 systems).

Risk ratings for inspected Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada-funded First Nations water and wastewater systems, Canada, from the National Assessment to 2014–2015

Stacked column chart

Long description

The stacked column chart shows the number of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada-funded First Nations water and wastewater systems with high, medium and low risk ratings during the National Assessment and yearly from 2011–2012 to 2014–2015. The number of medium- and high-risk systems for 2014–2015 is not shown.

Data for this chart
Risk ratings for inspected Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada-funded First Nations water and wastewater systems, Canada, from the National Assessment to 2014–2015
System typeYearNumber of inspected INAC-funded systemsNumber of low-risk systemsNumber of medium-risk systemsNumber of high-risk systems
WaterNational AssessmentFootnote [A]719194257268
Water2011–2012740266268206
Water2012–2013690263294133
Water2013–2014693310256127
Water2014–2015699395n/aFootnote [B]n/aFootnote [B]
WastewaterNational AssessmentFootnote [A]48216225169
Wastewater2011–201250223421058
Wastewater2012–201344719420845
Wastewater2013–201444423218428
Wastewater2014–2015446216n/aFootnote [B]n/aFootnote [B]

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 1.98 KB)

How this indicator was calculated

Note: *Data on the number of medium- and high-risk systems for 2014–2015 are not publicly available. Data collection for the National Assessment of all water and wastewater systems was carried out from 2009 to 2011. The quality of drinking water or treated wastewater produced by a system is just one part of its risk rating. A high-risk system might produce water of equal quality to that of a low-risk system but be unlikely to respond adequately in the event of a problem.
Source: Neegan Burnside (2011) National Assessment of First Nations Water and Wastewater Systems. Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (2012) Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Report – April 2010 – March 2012. Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (2014) Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Investment Report: April 2012 – March 2013. Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (2014) 2013–2014 Departmental Performance Report – Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada and Canadian Polar Commission. Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (2016) 2014–15 Departmental Performance Report – Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada and Canadian Polar Commission.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada provides financial assistance to First Nations for the planning, design, acquisition, construction, operation and maintenance of water and wastewater systems on reserves. For water and wastewater systems funded by INAC, and as defined in INAC protocols, APIs are required. While conducting these inspections, INAC uses pre-defined criteria to assign a risk rating to each system, which identifies system deficiencies and the system's ability to produce clean water or effectively treat wastewater should a problem arise. The results from APIs are further used to develop action plans to address noted deficiencies in the inspected systems and to help prioritize risk mitigation activities.

Risk ratings for water and wastewater systems are based on inspection components:

  • Source water risk (drinking water systems) or effluent risk (wastewater systems)
  • Design risk
  • Operation and maintenance risk
  • Record-keeping and reporting risk
  • Operator risk

For further details on risk ratings for water and wastewater systems in First Nations communities, please consult the Fact Sheet – Risk Assessment of Water and Wastewater Systems in First Nations Communities.

Related information

Water icon
This indicator is used to measure progress toward Target 3.1: On-Reserve First Nations Water and Wastewater Systems – Increase the percent of on-reserve First Nations water systems with low risk ratings from 27% to 50% by 2015; increase the percent of on-reserve First Nations wastewater systems with low risk ratings from 35% to 70% by 2015 of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy 2013–2016.

Access PDF (471 KB)

Date modified: