Source Water Protection in Indigenous Communities

Since 2017, the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, the Oneida Nation of the Thames, and the Munsee-Delaware Nation (CMO) and the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) have undertaken a collaborative, community-based project to identify threats to source waters in the Indigenous communities along the Thames River and, develop legal tools and policy aimed at their protection.

A short film, introducing this tri-nation-CELA intiative, the meaning of water and its importance to the CMO communities can be viewed at:

With funding from the Law Foundation of Ontario, the CMO communities in collaboration with CELA, devised legal and policy tools to address concerns from community members, whose historical use and enjoyment of the Thames River had been diminished, because of threats from industrial discharges and spills, sewage overflows, and the impact of phosphorus loading and pesticide use.

In response to threats to source water identified and prioritized by the CMO communities, an Indigenous Source Water Protection Toolkit was created. The Toolkit provides e a range of legal tools which can be used in Indigenous communities to protect source waters and mitigate threats.

As this toolkit is a living document, we encourage all readers to refer to the websites of the individual CMO communities for updates regarding the use of these legal tools by community members, Chief and Council, and administration.

Below you will find the Toolkit and its five accompanying legal tools and templates.

  • Legal Tool 1: By-laws as an Authority for Environmental Protection and Enforcement
  • Legal Tool 2: Consultation and Accommodation Protocol to Advance Source Water Protection
  • Legal Tool 3: Public Environmental Rights and Appeals Related to Source Waters
  • Legal Tool 4: Considering Source Water within Agricultural Leases on First Nation Reserve Lands
  • Legal Tool 5: Protecting Source Waters Under the Clean Water Act