Water Management

Regulatory Responsibilities

The Government of the Northwest Territories is responsible for managing water resources in the Mackenzie Valley and inland waters in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region through the administration of the Waters Act and regulations.

Regulation of water use in the Northwest Territories is a shared responsibility. The Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board, along with the Sahtu, Gwich'in and Wek'eezhii land and water boards, issues water licences in the Mackenzie Valley. The Inuvialuit Water Board issues water licences in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. ENR Water Resources is responsible for reviewing water licence applications and evaluating proposals and licences issued by the boards. These are delegated responsibilities under the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act (MVRMA).

The Minister of Environment and Natural Resources approves Type A water licences and Type B water licences, where a hearing has been held. Environment and Natural Resources is also responsible for inspections and enforcement of those licences and conducting the analyses to enable Boards to set securities for water licences, which the Department then holds.

The Waters Act

As a part of the NWT Devolution Agreement, the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) has mirrored the former federal Northwest Territories Waters Act and its regulations. The resulting NWT legislation is called the Waters Act.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) administers the GNWT’s new authorities under this act.

The Waters Act is part of an integrated system of land and water management in the NWT, along with the Northwest Territories Lands Act and Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act.

The Waters Act provides the GNWT with authority related to the permitting and use of water and the disposal of waste in bodies of water in the territory.

It also provides for the continuance of the Inuvialuit Water Board, formerly known as the NWT Water Board, which is responsible for the conservation, development and use of inland waters in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region.

The GNWT has the legislative authority to make regulations under the Act to:

  • Establish water management areas
  • Define process, substances, classes, and concentrations of substances which constitute waste
  • Determine thresholds for Type A and B water licences
  • Set out Board procedures, forms, reports, records, samples, applications and feeds.
  • Set the amount of security that may be required
  • Establish standards for water quality, effluent and building works
  • Set out the duties and powers of analysts and inspectors

The Waters Act includes recent changes made as a part of Canada’s Northern Regulatory Improvement Initiative. These changes provide for increased fines and the possibility of administrative monetary penalties for violations.

The former federal Northwest Territories Waters Act and its regulations are now contained in the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act. This allows Canada to continue to manage federal lands that did not transfer to the GNWT, such as Contaminated Sites.

The Waters Act came into force on April 1, 2014.