The Okanagan Indian Band recently held a Water Celebration to celebrate the completion of their water systems improvement project, marking a significant achievement for the community. After years of struggling with inadequate water reservoir capacity and elevated levels of manganese in their water system, community members can now breathe a sigh of relief. The completion of this project means that the community can lift the long-term water quality advisory and have enough water storage capacity to provide adequate fire protection.
Since May 2019, community members in the Okanagan Indian Band have been affected by a water quality advisory due to elevated levels of manganese in their community water systems. This advisory has affected the daily lives of community members, especially expecting mothers and bottle-fed infants who have had to use bottled water. The lack of access to adequate water reservoir capacity also posed a significant challenge to the community, limiting their ability to provide sufficient fire protection.
The improvements made to the Six Mile/Bradley Creek system, which included upgrading water supply wells, expanding and updating the water treatment system, and doubling reservoir capacity, have brought much-needed relief to the community. The upgraded system has also been connected to the Irish Creek/Head of the Lake system, where two new larger reservoirs and a control station were added. Testing has shown that the water is now safe to drink.
The Government of Canada partnered with the Okanagan Indian Band for this project and invested $11.7 million to support the infrastructure upgrades to two of the Band’s water systems. The successful completion of this project means that the community can now enjoy healthy and safe access to water for generations to come.
Despite this success, the issue of boil water advisories still affects many Indigenous communities across Canada. This longstanding problem has significant impacts on the daily lives of community members, affecting their health, safety, and overall wellbeing. Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu stated that “Water is life,” highlighting the crucial role of water in sustaining life and the need for continued efforts to address this issue in Indigenous communities.
The Federal Government has set a mandate to have all boiled water advisories on First Nation reserves lifted as it is a basic human right. Currently, 32 boiled water advisories are waiting to be lifted in 28 Indigenous communities.