Water Management

FAQ - Water Management

Who do I contact for a water licence?

It depends on the region of the NWT where your project takes place. Five regulatory boards have responsibility for water licensing in the NWT.

How do I access the public registry?

The following boards each have a public registry that is available online:

When do I need a water licence?

You need a water licence if your activity requires the use of water or the deposit of waste that exceeds specific thresholds established by the Northwest Territories Waters Regulations. These thresholds make sure the activity does not harm the environment or people. Examples of uses usually requiring a water licence include industrial (oil and gas exploration or production), mining and milling (advanced exploration or mining operations), power generation (hydro or geothermal), municipal (water use and deposit of solid waste/sewage), recreational (fishing lodges) or other miscellaneous activities. Licences are issued by regulatory boards in the NWT.

How do I find out about drinking water quality in my community?

The Department of Municipal and Community Affairs maintains a publically accessible water quality database which can be queried by community or hamlet.

Other potential contacts include the water boards in the NWT (NWT water boards new pdf).

If drinking water comes directly from a local lake, contact the following to see if there are any health advisories in effect:

Are the fish safe to eat?

The main contact for information on fish quality in the Northwest Territories is:

How do I find out about water quality downstream of an industrial development in the Northwest Territories?

Depending on the location of the industrial development, you should contact the appropriate regulatory board.

For historic mineral operations, the Contaminants and Remediation Directorate of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada may be able to provide some information.

Does the amount of rainfall in Yellowknife during summer months affect the water level in Great Slave Lake?

The water levels of Great Slave Lake are primarily influenced by the Slave River, which flows into the south end of the lake at Fort Resolution (Deninoo Kue). The Slave River begins in northern Alberta at the confluence of the Peace River and the three main channels draining the Peace-Athabasca Delta/Lake Athabasca. The Peace River and headwater tributaries originate in north eastern British Columbia and contribute the majority of total annual flow into the Slave River (~66%). The Slave River in turn contributes more than 75% of the total annual inputs to the lake.

In general, it is the combination of regulated flows from the Peace River and the outflow from Peace-Athabasca Delta/Lake Athabasca that determine the Slave River flows and ultimately the water level on Great Slave Lake.

Where can I get water quality data?

NWT Water Monitoring Inventory
The NWT Water Monitoring Inventory has information about water monitoring programs including descriptions of the program, lead organization, location, and reporting mechanisms.

NWT Discovery Portal
The NWT Discovery Portal is a website that provides a central location for environmental monitoring knowledge in the Northwest Territories. Users can search the virtual library or add to it by sharing their own monitoring information. It contains descriptions and locations of monitoring data, links to external reports and data sources, scientific monitoring data and reports and maps, presentations, videos and images.

Has there been more or less snow than normal?

The Water Resources Division measures the volume of snow at the end of the season (April) at several survey sites. The volume of snow from one year to the next is compared by converting the amount of snow to a “snow-water equivalent” – the amount of water produced per unit of area if the snow was melted. This takes into consideration the depth of snow and its density. 

I’m going paddling in the NWT this summer. Where can I find out how much water there will be in the rivers along my route?

The Water Resources Division contributes funding to the operation of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut portions of the National Hydrometric Network. This network is operated by the Water Survey Division of Environment Canada. Stream flows and lake levels are measured routinely. Historic data are published annually and are available from Water Survey of Canada’s National Water Quantity Survey Program website. This site also includes real-time hydrometric data for many river stations.

Where can I get water quantity data?

Environment Canada (EC) and ENR cost-share the operation of the Northwest Territories portion of the National Hydrometric Network. This network is operated by the Water Survey of Canada. Stream flows and lake levels are measured routinely. Historic data are published annually and are available from Water Survey of Canada's National Water Quantity Survey Program website. The site also includes real-time hydrometric data for many river stations.