Healthy Water, Healthy Communities

Working alongside communities to restore the health of local freshwater ecosystems and fisheries directly impacts community health. Water First collaborates with communities to use both western water science and traditional ecological knowledge to steward and protect local water health.

Water First’s fish habitat restoration work focuses on rebuilding and improving fish spawning grounds of local fish species that have been damaged due to human activity or eroded over time. By improving spawning sites, this habitat restoration work aims to improve fish populations for future generations.

Water First’s environmental restoration projects address various areas of concern including stabilize banks and reducing erosion caused by changing waterways, water quality testing and metrics, training communities with the use of water testing equipment, and providing communities with information about their potential exposure to contaminants. These studies also provide a baseline to track the effects of industrial activities on their traditional territories.

Intergenerational Connections

Water First works with Indigenous communities to complete environmental water projects restoring areas of local significance and testing water for possible contaminants. The community is involved throughout the entire process. Through consultations with Elders and those who understand local waterways, our projects address community priorities and restore the health of water bodies on traditional territories.

Across our programs, we hire and train locally to ensure the knowledge and experiences remain in the community. Our interns are primarily young Indigenous adults who are involved with everything from site assessment, to sourcing local materials, to completing the restoration work and ongoing monitoring. They work alongside an Indigenous mentor, who brings knowledge of the land and waterways.

  • Esri Canada is honoured to partner with Water First. Environmental sustainability is crucial for Esri and we’re pleased that our software will help Water First carry out their current conservation work and help future First Nation generations manage their water resources.

    Bryan Minhinnett, Esri Canada

Working together with mentors allows our interns to connect to community leaders. The interns learn traditional indicators of water and environmental quality that parallel the scientific methods they are also taught throughout the program. This intergenerational connection comes full-circle as interns and mentors deliver water science workshops at local schools and share the knowledge gained with their community.

Inspiring community stewardship

In the coming year, Water First is redesigning our program to expand our work. This means a greater focus on working with First Nations communities to understand their concerns and priorities for environmental projects.

Involving community members in every step of the project from design, to execution, to evaluation, develops a strong sense of community stewardship for natural resources.

Stewardship also comes from strong connections within the community. Our environmental projects foster intergenerational learning between Elders, young adults and school children to integrate traditional knowledge with western science in the water and on the land.


Check out this video that explains a bit more about our fish habitat restoration projects.

Latest News

Wrap up at Kebaowek First Nation

February 8th, 2019

On January 24 people braved the freezing temperatures and gathered at the Eagle Dome at Kebaowek First Nation to celebrate the completion of the Walleye Habitat Restoration project, a partnership between Kebaowek First Nation and Water First.

Throughout the two-year project, three large walleye spawning shoals were constructed at restoration … Read More

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Habitat Restoration: Walleye spawning site in the Kipawa Watershed

May 2nd, 2018

Over the past year, Water First and Kebaowek First Nation collaborated on a restoration project to repair a damaged historical walleye spawning site at Bois Franc, Lake Kipawa. The restoration team included members from Kebaowek Land Management, staff from Water First, and consulting biologist Richard Rowe of FRi Ecological Services.… Read More

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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.
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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.
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Technical Skills Training
Community members and band office staff receive technical training to ensure water science skills are retained locally.

The Team

  • Carli Lang, Ph.D.

    Scientific Director

  • Carli’s Ph.D. research in parasitology brought a community-based water sampling program to rural Panama, for greater understanding of the intersection between human and environmental health. At Water First she applies her experience and passion for water and community engagement in her work with First Nations communities.… Read More

  • Jag Saini, B.Eng., E.I.T., O.I.T.

    Project Manager & Instructor

  • Jag has a background in chemical and environmental engineering and has experience with mining and environmental projects. Jag’s experience with cross-cultural work environments, including First Nations, together with his Operator-in-Training designation and volunteerism with Professional Engineers Ontario, position him to make valuable contributions to Water First’s work.… Read More

  • Kendra Driscoll, M.Sc., EP

    Water Quality Specialist

  • Before working for Water First, Kendra was the Environmental Coordinator for Wahnapitae First Nation, and she also taught Environmental Science at Cambrian College. Kendra has a background in water quality monitoring and environmental chemistry. She completed a Masters of Chemical Science from Laurentian University in Environmental Chemistry and is a … Read More

  • Jesse Wright, MES

    Fish Habitat Project Coordinator

  • Jesse’s professional background includes extensive work as a wilderness fishing guide and environmental educator. His work at Water First focuses on fish habitat restoration in partnership with First Nations communities. He holds a Masters Degree in Environmental Studies from York University.… Read More

  • Ryan Osman

    Water Resources Specialist

  • Ryan holds a Bachelor’s degree in an Environmental Engineering and a Master’s degree in Water Resources Engineering from the University of Guelph. Ryan’s professional background includes work in the water resources department at the Hamilton Conservation Authority, research in hydrogeology and climate change, and was a teaching assistant at the … Read More

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