Mix of science, Indigenous knowledge to inform U of S project on Indigenous water quality issues
- EFN Staff | January 23, 2019
The University of Saskatchewan (USask) recently announced new projects to address water quality issues for Indigenous communities. On January 21, a new approach on how to improve water security through science and Indigenous knowledge was announced. The USask-led Global Water Futures (GWF) has launched six new co-led projects across Canada to address urgent and growing water quality issues for Indigenous communities.
“We are seeing profound changes to our river basins that affect us all, but no one in Canada is more affected by these changes than those in Indigenous communities,” said Dr. John Pomeroy in a media release and who is the Canada Research Chair in Water Resources and Climate Change and director of GWF, a Canada First Research Excellence Fund program. “Through these co-created and co-led projects, we are working with our Indigenous partners in an unprecedented way to work together to co-develop solutions for critical community water security challenges, while trying to decolonialize water science.”
According to a recent report by Indigenous Services Canada, there are 64 long-term water advisories on First Nations communities in Canada. But drinking water quality is just one of many community water security challenges arising from resource development and climate change.
The projects will build on the strengths of Indigenous communities to address water quality issues including land reclamation in mining and gas industries, health and quality of freshwater fish, encouraging young peoples’ engagement as stewards of the land and water, and affecting policies and governance that will support sustainable water quality.
“Our shared goal is to create an ongoing dialogue and framework that will use both western science and traditional Indigenous knowledge to solve these water issues,” Pomeroy said.
Each project is led by both university researchers and leaders from Indigenous communities and organizations. The projects involve USask and its GWF partners University of Waterloo, McMaster University, and Wilfrid Laurier University, working alongside a wide range of Indigenous communities.
One of the projects that was selected for funding is “We need more than just water” which is a project that will assess sediment in the Saskatchewan River Delta at Cumberland House, SK to determine whether it is feasible to restore sediment downstream of a dam and thereby rejuvenate the freshwater delta ecosystem.
The project is co-led by Tim Jardine, USask associate professor of aquatic toxicology, and Gary Carriere, president of the Cumberland House Fishermen’s Co-operative. Communities involved include the Cumberland House Cree Nation, Northern Village of Cumberland House, and Métis Local 42.
“Within the community, a sense of empowerment around planning will be built, allowing community leaders to guide the process from start to finish,” said Jardine and Carriere in their research proposal.
The six new three-year projects—a $1.63-million investment—are in addition to 33 GWF projects already underway. Those involve a total of 15 universities and 172 partners, and include a $6.9-million investment on projects addressing Indigenous community water issues.
The overall goal of the GWF research program is to better prepare for and predict climate change threats and sustainably manage freshwater resources in Canada and cold regions worldwide.