Air Quality

Air quality in the NWT

Clean air is essential to our well-being. The decisions we make every day in our homes and businesses affect the quality of the air we breathe. We all share responsibility for clean air, to contribute to healthy communities, ecosystems and a sustainable economy for the future.

The Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) works to protect and manage air quality in the Northwest Territories (NWT) by:

  • providing air emissions technical recommendations and oversight during industrial regulatory processes
  • monitoring ambient air quality in multiple locations across the NWT
  • most recently, moving to occupy a long-standing gap in the regulatory field of environmental protection

Specifically, the GNWT is developing the NWT Air Regulations and associated amendments to the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) to manage emissions to the air and protect air quality in the NWT.

NWT Air Regulations Development - Update

The Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) has amended the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) and is developing the Northwest Territories (NWT) Air Regulations to manage emissions to the air and maintain air quality in the NWT.

The GNWT conducted stakeholder engagement on a proposed Air Regulatory Framework (the Framework) and consultation on EPA amendments between June 17 and September 16, 2016. We received excellent feedback from multiple Indigenous governments and organizations and a variety of stakeholders.

Bill 27 EPA Amendments

What We Heard - Proposed Environmental Protection Act (EPA) Amendments summarizes the results of the 2016 feedback on the proposed EPA amendments. The feedback was used to prepare a draft bill to implement changes to the EPA, which then went out for another round of consultation.

Feedback and comments received on the draft EPA Bill in March and April 2017 have been summarized in What We Heard - Draft Environmental Protection Act Bill.

Bill 27 – An Act to Amend the Environmental Protection Act was passed and became law in October 2017. The amendments to the Act allow the GNWT to start implementing other aspects of the air regulatory framework besides the air permitting process. For example, it gives the GNWT authority to undertake the substantial work required to develop air regulations and create the foundation of the air regulatory system.

There will also be monitoring guidelines and other non-legislative documents developed to support the design and implementation of the air regulations. Aboriginal consultation, and stakeholder and public engagement and input, will be part of the development of these documents and regulations.

The amended EPA together with development of future regulations will establish specific standards for air quality to be applied throughout the NWT. The amended EPA also increases the authority of the Minister to take action to address specific air quality issues. The increased authority of the Minister will be used judiciously, with the public interest and environmental protection being major factors to be weighed by the Minister in deciding when to take action on air quality issues.

Regulatory Framework  Air Permitting Process

The GNWT developed the Air Regulatory Framework to address an existing environmental regulatory gap.

The original intent was for the entire air regulatory framework to be implemented under the EPA. However, during GNWT engagement sessions in 2016, there was a consistent recommendation to incorporate the air permitting process into the existing regulatory processes for water licenses and land use permits.

The GNWT has agreed to explore how this could happen, and has initiated discussions with Indigenous governments and organizations, the Land and Water Boards of the Mackenzie Valley and the Inuvialuit Water Board.

The What We Heard document for the Air Regulatory Framework summarizes the comments and recommendations received during consultation and engagement sessions and provides ENR responses.

If you have any questions or concerns, please email or call 867-767-9236 ext. 53185.

​Air and Precipitation Monitoring Network

The GNWT works collaboratively with Environment Canada’s Canadian Air and Precipitation Monitoring Network (CAPMoN) to run the network station at Snare Rapids. The station, located about 140 km northwest of Yellowknife, has been operating for three decades in partnership with Northwest Territories Power Corporation. The data from the Snare Rapids station assist in the study of regional patterns and trends of atmospheric pollutants in air and precipitation.

Air Quality Monitoring Program

The GNWT operates four state-of-the-art continuous ambient air quality monitoring stations across the Northwest Territories, as well as the Giant Mine Ambient Air Quality Site. Stations are located in Fort Smith, Inuvik, Norman Wells and Yellowknife. Each of these stations sample and analyze air quality on a continuous basis for a variety of parameters including dust and chemicals. The network is part of the National Air Pollution Surveillance Network (NAPS), a federal program operated across the country.

Data from our four stations and the Giant Mine monitoring site is available in almost real-time to the public on the Air Quality Monitoring Program website. The site also provides information on the monitoring network, including current and historical air quality monitoring data and additional related information.


Annual reports

The GNWT publishes annual NWT Air Quality Reports. These reports summarize the air quality information collected for the given year. Each report also provides information on, the air quality monitoring network operations, air pollutants monitored, air quality standards used to assess the monitoring results and discussion of trends in NWT air quality.

The Air Quality Management System was developed collaboratively under the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment to be a comprehensive and consistent approach to managing air quality in all jurisdictions across the country.
A primary component of the Air Quality Monitoring System is air zone management.

Air zones are local management areas, established by provinces and territories, to enable air quality objectives to be met based on local influences, such as emissions sources, geographical, socio-economic and meteorological factors.

Position papers

The Government of the Northwest Territories has issued two positions papers for use by municipal government officials in areas dealing with open burning at local landfills, burning and demolition of buildings in communities and fires extinguisher training.