In rural, remote, and Indigenous communities in Newfoundland and Labrador (NL), watersheds provide drinking water supplies while also supporting other resources and activities that form our culture, identity, and economy. Healthy drinking water supplies are dependent on healthy watersheds as well as on supporting water policies, practices and infrastructure.

From 2013-2014, researchers began a study entitled “Exploring Solutions for Sustainable Rural Drinking Water Systems” that aimed to identify the types of risks and challenges influencing drinking water quality and availability in rural areas, with a particular emphasis on communities of 1,000 residents or less in NL. There were four major components assessed by this initial project:

  • Source Water Quality and Quantity: Exploring concerns related to drinking water supplies in the province and associated health risks, with a focus on boil water advisories.
  • Public Perception, Awareness, and Demand: Recognizing the unique and varied circumstances rural residents face, attitudes towards water in NL and innovative approaches to issues of water supply, demand management and education efforts will be investigated.
  • Policy and Governance: The policies and governance structures surrounding water and water management greatly influence drinking water supplies and municipal operations.  The project team will explore options for policy and governance solutions to achieve sustainable drinking water systems in rural NL.
  • Drinking Water Infrastructure and Operations: Throughout Canada, current water infrastructure in rural areas is often out of date and no longer viable for the needs of the 21st century. The study will examine the current condition of water infrastructure in rural NL, operations of drinking water treatment systems and what investments are needed to improve drinking water systems.

This interdisciplinary research addressed knowledge gaps related to drinking water systems in NL by providing a current and comprehensive picture of drinking water issues in small communities from a multitude of angles. This was accomplished by drawing from current and past research and existing sources at federal, provincial and municipal levels, as well as research from other jurisdictions. Read the whole report here.

The results of this research revealed that while many communities were happy with their drinking water, changes are needed when it comes to management and operations of public drinking water systems in rural, remote, and Indigenous communities of NL., including water source protection, infrastructure improvements, operator training, and water conservation (see the report for full details pertaining to recommendations). While comprehensive, this project highlighted future research needs. This website will focus on all subsequent research being completed to address the issues of sustainable drinking water in NL highlighted in the initial report. This website aims to facilitate ongoing networking opportunities, align water researchers across disciplines, and compile reports and resources relevant to the research.

Past and ongoing research is done in collaboration with many partners including: Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador, NunatuKavut Community Council (NCC), Nunatsiavut Government, Qalipu First Nation, Professional Municipal Administrators (PMA), and communities across Newfoundland and Labrador. We have also worked with industry partners, including: Corner Brook Pulp and Paper Limited; Ducks Unlimited; Compusult Limited; Townsuite Municipal Software- PROCOM Data Services Inc.

With gratefully acknowledged funding support from the Harris Centre – RBC Water Research and Outreach Fund, Mitacs, Grenfell-Campus, the Conservation of Change Lab, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

Also please visit the main Rural Resilience website, which profiles this project as well as other rural and regional development-focused research initiatives.