Restoring waterways to improve community health

Restoring riverbanks and fish habitats, along with water quality testing, has a positive impact on the health of a community.

Improved ecosystems can support food security by creating more areas for fish spawning. Water quality testing helps communities know their risk of exposure to contaminants in fish harvested for food. Restoration can also reduce the impact of climate change – providing higher quality drinking water the community.

Water First’s restoration projects aim to reduce erosion and runoff, improve water quality, and increase fish spawning habitat. Our water quality studies provide communities with information about their potential exposure to contaminants. The 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.

Latest News

We called ourselves The Food Crew

Written by McKaylii Jawbone of Kebaowek First Nation, Water First Intern

I was a part of a two-year project to restore and enhance walleye spawning habitats in my community. Working with Ivan and Kacie made the project run so smoothly, we worked well as a team and we always had … Read More

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Put the big fish back… and other fish facts

Walleye spawn in the spring as soon as the ice is out by depositing eggs over rocks and cobble shoals. The fertilized eggs fall into the cracks and spaces between the rocks to safely incubate and hatch.

Female walleye can carry up to 26,000 eggs per pound of body weight. … Read More

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Wrap up at Kebaowek First Nation

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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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.

The Interns

  • McKaylii Jawbone, Kebaowek First Nation

    Water First Intern: Mckaylii Jawbone

    “Not only did we want to make a difference in the Kipawa Lake fishery, but we also wanted to learn about our land and all the ways we can help preserve the ecosystem; and through this project we were able to accomplish that and much more.”

    25 year-old McKaylii Jawbone, … Read More

  • Kacie McLaren, Kebaowek First Nation

    Water First Intern: Kacie McLaren

    Youngest of the group, 23 year-old Kacie McLaren is an Algonquin from Kebaowek First Nation. She has an Environmental Technician diploma from Canadore college. She heard about the fish habitat restoration project from her dad, and decided to apply because as an environmentalist she is passionate about protecting mother nature.… Read More

  • Ivan Polchinski, Kebaowek First Nation

    Water First Intern: Ivan Polchinski

    Before starting the restoration project, Ivan was working with Land Management at Kebaowek First Nation in various forestry-related jobs. As the mentor of the group, Ivan shared extensive knowledge about the traditional lands and waterways surrounding the community.

    He said that he applied for the mentor position because it gave … Read More

The Communities

The Team

  • 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

Invest in the next generation of water keepers.