Frequently Asked Questions
Financial Management Questions
The federal government has committed to fund AFNWA, so why is there not similar willingness to fund individual communities directly to improve their drinking water systems?
What AFNWA proposes is fundamentally different than what is provided through the current funding process through ISC. As such, the AFNWA has secured secure an initial 10-year funding framework, which will be updated every 5-years, to allow for long-term planning for community water and wastewater systems. A regional water authority also has a stronger voice in negotiating a sustainable funding framework with the the federal government.
Since operational funding will be reallocated from members to AFNWA, does this result in a funding shortfall in band operations? If so, what are the plans to relieve the impacts of potential deficits?
No, communities should not expect a shortfall as members of the Atlantic First Nations Water Authority.
AFNWA uses currently available federal funding with additional funds provided in the 2022 Federal Budget to provide high quality services and close infrastructure gaps.
Based on current budgets, greater funding will be provided for operations and capital upgrades to community systems with direct economic benefits to member communities.
AFNWA has informed ISC that this is an area of concern for First Nations, and additional community-level funds are being identified.
Will AFNWA charge Bands any additional fee(s) if they join AFNWA?
No individual resident, nor any of the member Bands, will be asked to pay for any central water and wastewater services that AFNWA provides.
As part of the feasibility and development stages for AFNWA, a detailed financial analysis was done, which included funding that is currently provided to each potentially participating First Nation for the operation of its water and wastewater assets annually. This analysis included both the regular and the top-up components of operations and maintenance funding for water and wastewater assets.
As it is intended that AFNWA will assume responsibility over delivering water and wastewater services, the transfer of the associated operations and maintenance funding and top-ups are considered appropriate, with no additional costs to participating First Nations.
Will AFNWA provide operations and maintenance for individual wells and septic systems?
Under current federal policy (i.e., Protocol for ISC-funded Infrastructure) the federal government will not provide funding to AFNWA for the Operations and Maintenance (O&M of individual wells and septic systems.
If individual Bands requests that AFNWA to also oversee operations and maintenance of individual wells and septic systems, it could be carried out on a fee-for-service basis.
If the federal government changes its policy and provides funding directly to AFNWA for operations and maintenance of individual wells and septic systems, The AFNWA would be pleased to provide such service.
Will member First Nations have to redirect all of their O&M funding to AFNWA?
The O&M funding for water and wastewater services is the only category of O&M funding that will be redirected to AFNWA, with the approval of the First Nation community. This transfer would be accomplished as a part of the overall agreement that would be entered into by each member First Nation and AFNWA.
To reiterate, all other regular and top-up O&M funding for other infrastructure would continue to be received directly by that First Nation community.
How is funding managed?
AFNWA funding is managed by professional staff reporting regularly to the Board of Directors.
Business Plans s are developed on a long-term and annual basis, containing projected capital and operations budgets for Board approval.
In support of Business Plans, AFNWA has developed an Asset Management Plan and long-term capital and operations budget to ensure all member communities receive necessary upgrades to their systems and a high level of service through operations.
What are the financial accountability measures?
AFNWA was designed with dual-financial accountability to the Government of Canada and to the participating communities.
AFNWA and ISC have signed an MOU with the First Nations Financial Management Board (FMB) to provide economic oversight of AFNWA business activities.
The Board provides oversight for the utility, guides its strategic direction, and delegates specific financial responsibility to the Audit and Finance Committee.
What governance oversight and polices are in place to assure that AFNWA complies to required water and wastewater standards?
AFNWA held discussions with ISC to determine which federal agencies or First Nations organizations are best suited for this role. It was agreed that Environment and Climate Change Canada would be appropriate for regulating wastewater under the new Wastewater System Effluent Regulations.
AFNWA and ISC are currently exploring an oversight agency for drinking water. AFNWA is also taking a proactive approach to quality assurance and are developing water safety plans in partnership with the Centre for Water Resource Studies at Dalhousie University to comply with Health Canada’s Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality.
How will membership impact a community’s future infrastructure projects, for example, the development of a new subdivision?
Future infrastructure projects such as building a new subdivision not only requires investment in water and wastewater assets, but also in housing, roads, and electrical distribution capacity. First Nations members, with assistance from ISC, would continue to be responsible for the development of new infrastructure on their land.
AFNWA would ultimately assume operational responsibility for delivery of water and wastewater services to the new subdivision once the assets are commissioned. Therefore, representatives of the AFNWA Engineering Department from AFNWA would be consulted on the required additions to the water distribution and wastewater collection networks, as well as any necessary capital upgrades to the water treatment and wastewater treatment plants to ensure sufficient capacity for the new development.
AFNWA has completed its assessment of the water and wastewater assets of all potential participating First Nations and developed comprehensive Asset Management Plans [AMPs]. The AMPs are a best practice intended to help ensure that the projected useful life of assets can be reached avoiding early, unnecessary, and expensive replacement. AFNWA also holds quarterly workshops with water and wastewater operators from the participating First Nations.
This also means that AFNWA Engineering Department are already developing a working familiarity with each First Nations water and wastewater assets to ensure a smooth transition post-transfer.