An Update from True North Water

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It's been quite a while since we at True North Water have issued any sort of update, and for that, we apologize. We're happy to inform you all, however, that though we've been quiet, we've been very busy establishing some very exciting new partnerships for True North Water. 

International Projects

The Old Way:

At True North Water, we rely on partner organizations to implement our clean water solutions both around the world and here in Canada. 

Our first two wells in the Gwembe Valley in Zambia were done in partnership with The Colin Glassco Foundation. These projects were a tremendous success, providing clean, safe, drinking water to more than people. The Colin Glassco Foundation, however, has unfortunately decided to move on from these types of projects in the future and will no longer be able to assist True North Water in drilling wells throughout Zambia. We wish them nothing but continued success as they shift their focus to the various schools, orphanages, and community health centres they operate.

In February of 2019, we reviewed two project proposals from a potential implementing partner. One project in particular seemed to be a good fit for our organization; providing returning refugees in Afghanistan with small-scale water filtration systems. 

At the time, however, this proposal did not provide any information with regards to project costs or timelines. In late March of 2019, we were provided with an estimated cost-per-unit which was unfortunately much higher than anticipated. Given our funding levels, True North Water would have been able to help provide less than 20 total water filtration units.

The New Way:

We are incredibly excited about our newest partnership with CAWST (The Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology). CAWST focuses on "capacity building" - reaching people in need by working with existing, in-country organizations to start or improve their water and sanitation projects.

CAWST currently operates 6 WET (Water Expertise and Training Centres around the world:

  • Afghanistan
  • Cambodia
  • Ethiopia
  • Honduras
  • Nepal
  • Zambia

WET Centres are locally-staffed and housed within existing in-country organizations. Individuals and small grass-roots organizations (what CAWST calls, "clients") can receive training at these WET Centres in order to obtain the knowledge and skills necessary to begin implementing clean water solutions and hygiene training for themselves in their own communities.

Training clients used to be where the WET Centre model ended ... but not anymore!

Many of CAWST's WET Centre clients do not have the necessary financials needed to begin implementing the solutions they have learned about. These are incredibly driven individuals and small teams that have the skills required to make a difference but are unable to afford the materials they need to actually implement solutions. This is where True North Water will now be involved.

The exact figures are still being worked out, but for approximately $2,500, True North Water will provide startup, unrepayable, grants to WET Centre clients referred to us by CAWST, allowing them to begin implementing clean water solutions. 

Grant recipients will charge households and/or communities a small fee for each solution they implement, allowing them to generate revenue and in time, become self-sustaining organizations that contribute to the local economy.

We are just in the final stages of solidifying this new implementation strategy and hope to issue our first round of grants in the next few weeks.

Canadian Projects

One of the core tenents of True North Water is addressing the water crisis faced by First Nations communities across Canada. This has proven to be incredibly challenging as partner organizations and possible solutions seem to be in short supply.

After much searching, however, we are incredibly pleased to announce our partnership with the First Nations Technical Advisory Group (TSAG). TSAG provides on-site, hands-on training and mentoring services to First Nations water and wastewater operators in Alberta to promote safe, clean drinking water and proper care of wastewater systems.

In recent years, there has been an increased focus on drinking water issues in First Nations communities; however, much of the attention centres on ending long term drinking water advisories on public water treatment systems. As a result, in Alberta, only one long term drinking water advisory on a public system remains and the timeline to resolution is spring 2020. 

While substantial progress has been made on drinking water advisories on public systems in the region, there has been comparably little progress on resolving issues associated with private drinking water systems. Many First Nations communities in Canada have a mix of homes connected to a distribution line and homes that rely on private systems due to a dispersed distribution of homes on the landscape. It is not always feasible or practical to connect all homes to a distribution line. In Alberta, there are over 9000 private drinking water wells and cisterns in First Nations communities. While public drinking water systems are captured under Federal funding programs, private drinking water systems receive significantly less funding and attention. Additionally, while there is adequate information about the scope of the deficiencies for public water treatment systems, there is a paucity of data to assess the scope of issues around private drinking water systems on reserve.  

To address this crucial data gap, True North Water, in partnership with TSAG will soon be undertaking a small-scale pilot project to collect data on private drinking water systems in First Nations communities in Alberta with the long-term goal of creating a Made-in-Alberta model for private drinking water systems that can be scaled up to a national level. 

While only a pilot project, this will be no small undertaking and will require a significant amount of funding. We're really excited to kickoff some exciting new fundraising initiatives in 2020 and hope that you'll join us!

In Summary

As you can see, we may have been quiet, but we've been busy. We greatly appreciate your patience and continued support and cannot wait to see the results of these exciting new partnerships.

Everyone, everywhere, deserves clean water; and thanks to our new implementing partners, and donors like you, we're one step closer to making a real difference in the lives of those who need it most.