Securing safe water for people

Currie Dixon, MLA for Copperbelt NorthAs submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, June 24, 2016
by Currie Dixon, Minister of Community Services

Our water, whether we use it for drinking or recreation, is a precious resource and one that we sometimes take for granted. Water supply upgrades are often expensive and highly technical but they are a high-priority investment for public health and safety.

Much of the territory’s original drinking water and wastewater infrastructure was constructed in the 1960s and ‘70s. Like buildings and other infrastructure, these water systems have service lifespans and periodically need revitalization.

Over the past number of years, Yukon government has maximized the use of joint-funding programs and worked with our partners to provide upgrades to our water and wastewater treatment facilities in our municipal, First Nation and unincorporated communities. We are fortunate to have a good water supply and drinking water we can trust but it has only come through deliberate and consistent investment.

Earlier this week I had the honour of signing a new agreement with the federal government that will help Yukon access more funding for clean water and wastewater infrastructure in our territory over the coming years. Due to our strong relationship with the Government of Canada, we are the first jurisdiction in the country to sign such an agreement on water infrastructure and it allows us to continue this important work in our communities. The projects that benefit from this funding include infrastructure that we’ve jointly identified as priorities for municipal governments in the revised Yukon Infrastructure Plan, such as a new drinking water reservoir for Watson Lake and upgrades to the Haines Junction sewage lagoon.

The new investments will be delivered in a 75/25 per cent funding split between the federal and Yukon governments. They will help us continue to ensure that our drinking water supply remains modern, safe and sustainable and that our wastewater is dealt with appropriately. These are not only investments for us, these are investments for our children and for others who will call Yukon home in the future.

We have been focused on this important work with our partners for a number of years. Most recently, we opened brand new water treatment plants in Tagish and Deep Creek. Not to mention the countless changes and upgrades to the water and wastewater treatment facilities found across the Yukon from Old Crow to Watson Lake. Many of these facilities are constructed to post-disaster standards that will ensure public health and safety, and last for many years to come. I should also mention our Domestic Water Well Program that has provided more than 250 rural properties with access to drinking water in the last few years.

Finally, I would like to highlight our Yukon Water Strategy and Action Plan that we released in 2014. This plan’s goals include focusing on water for nature and water for people. Maintaining Yukon’s public drinking water supplies and treating our wastewater properly are a vitally important part of that strategy.