John Miller and Dan Mongrain, looking at a map of the lake.

Water First Education & Training Inc. was founded in 2009 and began its work in Uganda, bringing drinking water resources to rural schools. We provided training on the operations and maintenance of the water and sanitation systems we installed.

We began working with First Nations in Canada in 2012, after being challenged and inspired by community members on numerous occasions about why we weren’t working with Indigenous communities here in Canada experiencing water challenges.

Our projects with First Nations communities were initially small but grew quickly. Within a few years, our collaborations with Indigenous communities accounted for nearly 90% of program resources. Water First dedicated itself exclusively to working with First Nations communities in 2016. We focus on both drinking water and environmental water concerns, as well as water science education for youth.

To date, we have collaborated with over 40 Indigenous communities to address water challenges through education and training.

Our Approach

It is our approach that sets us apart. This approach has lead to successful partnerships and strong community up-take of our programs.

Meaningful collaborations & respectful relationships

Our work with Indigenous advisory council members, industry specialists and First Nations communities ensures that we establish trust and learn from each other — delivering sustainable water programs that meet local priorities.

We hire and train locally.

We hire locally and train primarily young Indigenous adults to ensure communities retain the skills and knowledge gained where they can have a long-term impact.

Blending of western science and traditional knowledge.

With our partners, we weave First Nations’ knowledge, values, and customs with western water science education, and interns and youth involved in our programs get out on the land and in the water.

The Communities

Click on an icon to learn a bit about our work in that community

fish habitat restoration map icon
Fish Habitat Restoration Project
Community members participate in assessment, planning and restoration phases of a fish habitat restoration project, in partnership with experts in biology and hydrology. Elder consultations are key to identifying historically active fish habitat and restoration sites. Local youth receive training to implement the project with expert guidance.
watershed restoration map icon
Watershed Restoration Project
Community members participate in assessment, planning and implementation of erosion control activities to improve water quality in the local watershed. Local youth receive training to implement the project with expert guidance.
Baseline Water Quality Study map icon
Baseline Water Quality Study
Youth and young adults sample water at various sites identified by the community, testing for contaminants that affect drinking water and environmental water quality. The data collected belongs to the First Nation and helps guard against future water quality impacts.
Contaminant of Concern map icon
Contaminant of Concern Study
Water and fish samples are collected from lakes identified by the First Nation and analyzed in labs for water quality and mercury levels. Local fishers catch the fish and are trained in water and fish sampling techniques for analysis. The data is owned by the community and the results are clearly presented to community members.
Technical Skills Training map icon
Technical Skills Training
Community members and band office staff receive technical training to ensure water science skills are retained locally.
Water First Internship map icon
Water First Internship
Aspiring young water treatment plant operators monitor drinking water quality in their distribution system and at traditional sites on the land. In partnership with professional water treatment plant operators, interns gain skills that are critical to solving boil water advisories in remote communities.
Water Science Workshop map icon
Water Science Workshop
Students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 in First Nation schools are engaged with fun, hands-on, curriculum based water science lessons. Activities include water sampling, capturing live specimens for viewing under a microscope, and drone flights above watersheds.
Water Tree map icon
Water Tree Project
Water science workshops with an additional day of watershed restoration activities, such as tree planting, in the community.