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Water First and Interlake Reserves Tribal Council Launch New Internship Program

  • 6 min read

Partnership marks the organization’s first skills training program to operate in Manitoba

Winnipeg, Manitoba, February 28, 2024 — Water First Education & Training Inc., in partnership with Interlake Reserves Tribal Council (IRTC) and participating communities, is proud to announce a new water treatment plant operator training program for local community members. The expansion to Manitoba marks the first Drinking Water Internship Program to operate outside of Ontario and supports Water First’s commitment to help develop these critical projects with communities across the country.

Interns from the seven Interlake Reserves Tribal Council communities will participate in the 15-month Drinking Water Internship Program to pursue valuable provincial certifications, which help trainees begin their careers in the water field. The internship launched February 12, 2024, with an Introduction Week in Pinaymootang First Nation, and will see twelve participants study safety, watersheds, water treatment and distribution, water chemistry and sampling, as well as tour the Lake St. Martin First Nation water treatment plant. This project was developed in collaboration with IRTC, with a focus on networking opportunities and sharing knowledge between the participating communities.

In their first week together, interns dove into the content right away, studying safety, watersheds, water treatment and distribution, water chemistry and sampling, as well as touring the Lake St. Martin First Nation water treatment plant.

“Local, skilled people are critical in maintaining sustained access to clean water,” said John Millar, Executive Director of Water First. “We’re excited that the planning and collaboration with Interlake Reserves Tribal Council will result in this group pursuing further education and careers in the water sciences. We hope the success of this program leads to many more collaborative projects in Manitoba.”

Regarding the launch of the Internship, Interlake Reserves Tribal Council Chief Executive Officer, Karl Zadnik says, “On behalf of the Interlake Reserve Tribal Council, we are proud to be the first Communities in Manitoba to partner with Water First to establish a Water Treatment Internship program for our people. This opportunity will provide members of our communities with skills and training to pursue further education and certification in water and wastewater treatment, leading to a greater pool of water safety experts to serve our communities and beyond.”

During the 15-month internship program, each intern will accumulate 1,800 hours of on-the-job experience in their home community water and/or wastewater treatment plants, which is a part of the certification process. As part of the program, interns pursue certification as small drinking water and small wastewater operators as well as Class 1 water treatment and wastewater treatment. Interns also round out their training with additional workshops in water quality analysis, introduction to environmental water sampling, introduction to mapping and Geographic Information Systems, as well as career readiness training.

Walter Spence (left) and Jo-Dee Parenteau (right) learning about the water treatment process during their first week as Water First interns.
Walter Spence (left) and Jo-Dee Parenteau (right) learning about the water treatment process during their first week as Water First interns.

These trainings can lead to work in both drinking water treatment, wastewater treatment, and environmental water careers. The Internship also encourages increased participation of women in the water sciences and offers wrap-around supports to reduce barriers to participation, including childcare services and transportation. Graduates of the program become part of the Water First Alumni Network, with access to continuing career development and education opportunities, as well as an ever-expanding professional network.

“I’m very happy to be a part of the Water First Internship. Sharing ideas and supporting each other while making those ideas become reality will be a huge boost for our respective communities and their water treatment programs,” shares Walter Spence of Peguis First Nation. “Water is sacred, it is where we began our journey in this world. Now, we are making career choices about working with water. It is a big responsibility but one we can manage by continuing to work together. I am very excited to learn what I can over the next 15 months.”

Sustainable access to safe, clean water in Indigenous communities in Canada continues to be a critical issue. In Canada, 14 percent of First Nations are affected by a drinking water advisory. The challenges are complex and layered. Communities may face issues relating to infrastructure, source water quality, or people to manage water systems – or more than one of these issues at a time. Water First works with Indigenous communities that have identified education and training as part of their solution to the water crisis. Safe water needs skilled people.

The IRTC Water First Internship is funded through Indigenous Services Canada, Indigenous Skills and Employment Training, and First People Development Inc., together with the support of Water First’s donors. This collaboration will support the IRTC in training future water operators and in increasing local, technical capacity and autonomy in the water management field for today and for generations to come.

This is Water First’s sixth Drinking Water Internship Program. To date, 46 interns from 31 Indigenous communities have graduated from Internship programs and logged approximately 117,000 hours working in local water plants and attending workshops.


About Interlake Reserves Tribal Council Inc. (IRTC):
The Interlake Reserves Tribal Council Inc. consists of a partnership of seven (7) Manitoba Interlake communities working together to advance our collective well-being of members from the following communities:

  • Dauphin River First Nation
  • Kinonjeoshtegon First Nation
  • Lake Manitoba First Nation
  • Lake St. Martin First Nation
  • Little Saskatchewan First Nation
  • Peguis First Nation
  • Pinaymootang First Nation

Learn more at

About Water First Education & Training Inc. (Water First):
Water First is a registered Canadian charity that works alongside Indigenous communities to address water challenges through education, training, and meaningful collaboration. Since 2009, Water First has collaborated with more than 90 Indigenous communities located in the lands now known as Canada while supporting Indigenous youth and young adults to pursue careers in water science. Learn more: Learn more:

For more information, please contact:

Ami Gopal
Director of Development and Communications
Water First
1-800-970-8467 ext. 106

Karl Zadnik
Chief Executive Officer
Interlake Reserves Tribal Council
(204) 956-7413

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Water plant operator in the office