Indigenous People And The Struggle For Clean Water

Arnay Kathuria
3 min readFeb 5, 2021

There’s nothing more important than clean water. We use it for everything, from drinking it to using it for cleaning. Even so, there are more than 100 drinking water advisories in areas with many Indigenous people and reserves across Canada.

A single drinking water advisory can mean that up to 5000 people don’t have access to clean water.

The lack of clean, safe drinking water in Indigenous communities is one of the greatest violations of the United Nations SDG goal to provide clean water and sanitization to everyone. For an example of this, look no further than the province of Ontario.

Ontario’s 250,000+ lakes hold 20% of the world’s fresh water.

Even with all this fresh, usable water, why don’t Indigenous communities have safe water? Society and the government neglect these communities. The government has the money and resources to do it, so how should they? The first step is to identify the problems with safe water that Indigenous communities face.

The biggest problem is the lack of infrastructure. While indigenous communities have the potentially usable water, they simply do not have the tools and resources to actually use it. Water infrastructure is primarily the infrastructure to supply, treat and store water. Many of the indigenous communities that live in Ontario, and many outside of Ontario too, don’t have things like water pumps and pipes to source and transport water. They don’t have the sanitization filters or other tools for cleaning water. They don’t even have water towers to store the little usable water they have!

The money and labour costs for updating all the water infrastructure in all Indigenous communities in Canada would cost about $3.2 Billion.

While the number seems large, not only would this benefit the lives of upwards of 500,000 Indigenous people, but this one time investment would help eliminate continued maintenance and evacuation costs by the government which can cost millions of dollars a year.

Another big problem is water pollution. While the continued dumping of pollutants into freshwater lakes affects everyone, it affects Indigenous communities much more. The biggest culprit of this is oil. Because of the government’s neglect of Indigenous communities, freshwater lakes near those communities have no regulations on leaking and dumping. Because of oil drills built in areas like Alberta, indigenous communities get affected by the sub-products of this leakage into their potential drinking water.

Lots of Indigenous land has oil pipelines going through it. Not only does the building of these pipelines destroy the environment around it, but any leaks or malfunctions of these pipelines pollutes the freshwater near and in these communities, further limiting the access to clean water by Indigenous people.

Overall, the water crisis in many primarily Indigenous areas of Canada stems from the neglect of those communities by the government, resulting in the large amounts of water pollution and the lack of infrastructure in freshwater. Spending the time, effort and money to give Indigenous people clean drinking water is something that would help hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people and is something that should be done now.

Indigenous people deserve much more than basic human rights, and it is everyone who lives on their land’s job to help them get clean, safe drinking water.