Access to Safe Drinking Water at BOCN

Clean Water for Pandemic Recovery at Beardy's and Okemasis' First Nation

The South Saskatchewan River Watershed Stewards (SSRWSI) are excited to announce that we are one of ten successful recipients of the 2022 North American Partnership for Environmental Community Action (NAPECA) grant program. This grant is provided by the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) and focused this year on encouraging an equitable recovery by helping communities, particularly the most vulnerable and underserved populations, to address challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

SSRWSI will be working with Dr. Robert Patrick, Assistant Professor at the University of Saskatchewan, and Beardy’s & Okemasis’ Cree Nation (BOCN) on the project titled “Building Pandemic Recovery and Response through Access to Safe Drinking Water at Beardy’s & Okemasis’ Cree Nation, Saskatchewan, Canada.

In Canada, Indigenous populations are at an elevated risk of exposure to COVID-19 compared to non- Indigenous communities. This condition is due to several reasons including, but not limited to, the physical isolation of communities, over-crowded housing, cultural practices necessitating community gatherings, and poor access to safe drinking water. This project aims to narrow the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities respecting the impacts of COVID-19 and other pandemics.

Drinking water contamination continues to plague a disproportionate number of Indigenous communities in Canada. COVID-19 has only exacerbated human health conditions associated with poor water quality for on-reserve Indigenous people. Beardy’s & Okemasis’ Cree Nation in Saskatchewan has a long history of water quality concerns. Water distribution in the community is primarily by truck to household cisterns. This method of delivery presents an elevated risk of contamination.

This project aims to narrow the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities respecting the impacts of COVID-19 and other pandemics. A focus on drinking water protection, aquatic habitat restoration and youth education offers a transformative approach to improving the health condition in Indigenous communities.

Main activities for this project are habitat restoration as well as human health and ecosystem awareness initiatives. This will include aquatic habitat inventory, environmental water monitoring, habitat restoration such as tree planting, riparian assessments, and wetland restoration. Awareness initiatives will be done through classroom education: deliver water science, ecosystem, and habitat protection awareness to students in the community K-12 school. We propose water testing kits in the classroom, field inspections, community clean-up, household recycling, and other project initiatives to protect and improve aquatic habitat and local drinking water supplies.

SSRWSI would like to thank CEC for selecting our project. We are excited to work with Beardy’s & Okemasis’ Cree Nation and cannot wait to start our first in-person meetings in June 2022.