I was excited to read recently about a small Lhoosk’uz Dené community in northern British Columbia which finally has a steady supply of clean tap water. Village leaders approached the University of British Columbia to help them develop a water treatment system that uses a combination of ultraviolet light and chlorine disinfection to ensure the water in the community is safe enough to drink.
The innovative system is simple to operate and can be maintained and repaired without having to call in specialists from other places or pay for expensive parts. The community partnered with a team of scientists and engineers that use a collaborative, community-driven approach to develop practical drinking water solutions for rural Canadian communities. The new water system in the Lhoosk’uz Dené village ends a 14-year boil water advisory.
The good news story reminded me of an installation I saw at the Art Gallery of Ontario a few years ago by Ruth Cuthand. It was called Don’t Breathe, Don’t Drink. The blue tarp on the table is the kind used for hastily constructed shacks people on one reserve had to move into when black mold was discovered in the drywall in their homes.
The glasses of water on the table contain plastic and beaded representations of the different kinds of bacteria and parasites found in the water on northern Canadian reserves that have boil water advisories.
The artist put some of the bacteria-filled water into baby bottles to remind us that children may be drinking this contaminated water too.
I am glad those kinds of problems are over for at least one Indigenous community. According to a government of Canada website as of today, there are still 32 communities in Canada with boil water advisories in effect. Let’s hope that innovative solutions like the one found for the Lhoosk’uz Dené community can be created for those 32 communities as well.