The Community-Led Approach: A Holistic Methodology to Addressing Rural Drinking Water Advisories in Samson Cree Nation

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Drinking Water Advisories (DWAs) affect Indigenous Communities across Canada, with focus being given to specific problems impacting centralized systems. This thesis explores the largely undocumented rural systems context and how wastewater systems must be considered in tandem. In partnership with Samson Cree Nation, through Indigenous Research Methodologies like Two-Eyed Seeing this thesis presents research that investigated the community’s approach to solving drinking water concerns. Using deductive thematic analysis, the qualitative data was used to evaluate the benefits and challenges of a community-led approach and to quantify the impact that DWAs have on Samson Cree Nation residents. Historical data and onsite inspection data was evaluated to define the extent of DWA’s, the condition of rural servicing infrastructure, and the impact of existing regulation and water governance practices. Findings indicated that the community-led approach allowed the Nation to advocate and articulate issues specific to the Nation and develop solutions that reflected the community’s unique needs. Quantitative data showed that 15% of homes were under a Boil Water Advisory and up to 50% of homes under Do Not Consume orders. A majority of rural water and septic systems were beyond their expected life and 70% of septic systems had failed and been converted to a ‘shoot-out’ septic waste system, within close proximity to a house and/or well. Considering the prevalence of DWAs, the issue extends beyond merely physical condition. The existing regulations and funding policies are outdated and counter to long-term solutions. Within Samson Cree Nation, the lack of clear regulation and quality control has created uncertainties and inconsistencies. Specifically, in the lack of monitoring and regulation surrounding construction. Minimal operation and maintenance have resulted in failing infrastructure and general distrust across the Nation both in individual systems and the Nations capacity to address concerns. Other issues identified by interviewees included the Nations’ lack of capacity and awareness about rural water issues. Overall, the success of the Nation-led approach highlights the importance of Indigenous-led partnership and collaboration. However, to obtain long-term solutions for DWAs, the regulations and policies that govern must be adapted to minimize the prevalence of short-term band-aid solutions.
water, wastewater, decentralized, Indigenous
Lauret, A. (2023). The community-led approach: a holistic methodology to addressing rural drinking water advisories in Samson Cree Nation (Master's thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from