Chief Peigan at Indigenous Water Forum
Chief Peigan, File Hills Qu’Appelle Tribal Council, speaking about the potash industry’s water use.

By Peter Davey, ES&E Magazine

In late October, I had the privilege of being asked to speak at the Indigenous Water Forum in Whitecap Dakota First Nation, Saskatchewan. Hosted by the Safe Water for Health Research Team, the University of Saskatchewan, Touchwood Agency Tribal Council, and the Safe Drinking Water Team, the event was an emotional and inspiring gathering of Elders and Chiefs, water system operators, public health workers and researchers.

The purpose of the forum was to bridge people’s knowledge of water through sharing of indigenous ways of knowing, research presentations and demonstrations of practical applications. Living in southern Ontario, discussions and news about First Nation water is usually in the context of a boil water advisory or funding to eliminate advisories.

I found the most powerful demonstration at the forum were the water pitchers at each table. The water that we all drank during the two-day event was produced by one of two integrated biological reverse osmosis membrane (IBROM) treatment plants on Whitecap Dakota First Nation land.

During the technical breakout sessions, Brian Tralnberg, water treatment operator for Whitecap, explained how his community’s water treatment and distribution system worked, and he took questions from an audience of largely First Nation operators.

Other presentations discussed drinking water success stories; lessons learned from the Husky oil spill; policy gaps between stakeholders and government, and much more. This was a truly unique event and a must-attend for all water professionals.

For more information on the event, visit: www.indigenouswaterforum.com. This article appears in ES&E Magazine’s December 2016 issue.

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