This IRC-led project had two goals. The first goal was to collect samples from water sources in three communities in the ISR (Aklavik, Tuktoyaktuk and Ulukhaktok) and to identify microbes and contaminants which may be present. Within these communities, short interviews were also conducted with elders to identify concerns around water quality and to determine their views on how climate change may be affecting the waters of their homelands.
The second goal includes an educational component. In addition to community briefings and discussions, a resource manual for teachers on water in the north was developed for grades 3-6. The manual will compliment the existing NWT science curriculum as well as the Inuuquatiguit curriculum. A primary focus for the educational component is to introduce youth to the concept of stewardship and their future responsibilities.
“If the climate changes, everything changes. There will be changes in the water, the land, the animals and everything else.” – Aklavik Elder
Tests for basic water characteristics, metals, hydrocarbons, PCBs, parasites and bacteria were conducted in the three communities. Advanced chemical testing was completed based on concerns in the community of Aklavik about barrels that were left buried in the 1950s. There were difficulties encountered during the testing when collection bottles broke in extreme temperatures and pumping equipment froze. The final report is currently being prepared.
A Youth Town Hall Forum in Inuvik was held for youth from the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. After a general presentation on Water Education in the Beaufort Delta region, the students broke into groups and addressed several issues. They discussed concerns around water, global warming, pollutants and recommended several ways they could become more locally and regionally involved, such as having a youth representative on the water board. They learned about doing research and testing water quality so that they can eventually take responsibility for these efforts. The Elders from the various communities had several common concerns regarding the taste of tap water, contamination and how climate change was impacting their traditional lifestyles. Increased winds, rapid temperature changes and warmer temperatures impacted travel on-the-land, and often the ability to hunt. Later freeze-up dates of water and earlier melts also had an impact on their lifestyles.