Ahousaht crisis highlights need for clean water on reserves, chief says
As his community deals with a state of emergency due to its dwindling water supply, the chief of the Ahousaht First Nation says long-standing issues with water on Canadian reserve land is a black mark on the nation.
"In this year of 2018, I'm so surprised that so many First Nations across Canada still do not have proper safe drinking water, and infrastructure to go along with having safe drinking water," Chief Greg Louie told CTV News.
Ahousaht, a small island community of 1,000 people near Tofino, saw its reservoir levels drop to dangerously low levels over the weekend.
Water is so scarce that the community doesn't have enough to fight fires if one were to break out, leaders say.
Not only that, but the water supply that is coming in has been contaminated by mud and other debris from a weekend storm, with turbidity levels off the charts.
"There was such a severe, heavy rain and wind through the weekend that it was very clear there was a section of the dam where the water was just brown," said Ahousaht administration manager Anne Atleo.
The community has been receiving shipments of bottled water, which are being delivered door to door.
Some elders, infants and those with health issues have had to leave the community, heading to Tofino to be with family who have access to clean water.
According to the First Nation Health Authority, 13 B.C. reserves faced some type of serious water issue as of Oct. 31. The authority monitors 285 water systems.
Nationally, 67 long-term boil water advisories are in place on First Nation reserves, according to Indigenous Services Canada. Seven of those advisories are in B.C.
The federal government has pledged to resolve all long-term drinking water issues on reserves by the year 2021.
Indigenous Services Canada says it’s coordinating closely with Ahousaht, and band members have already repaired a leak in their water distribution system.
Mechanical components and parts, which will likely end the state of emergency, are expected on the remote coastal First Nation by Friday.