Environment and safety

On World Water Day we recognize that “Water is life”

A tobacco offering

At the NWMO, we are committed to working with communities, including Indigenous Knowledge Holders, to ensure the long-term safety and protection of our precious water resources. (Image: A tobacco offering on the shore of Lake Huron. Photo credit: Jessica Perritt.)

March 22, 2023

Toronto, Ont.

By The NWMO

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A tobacco offering

At the NWMO, we are committed to working with communities, including Indigenous Knowledge Holders, to ensure the long-term safety and protection of our precious water resources. (Image: A tobacco offering on the shore of Lake Huron. Photo credit: Jessica Perritt.)

Water is a connection we share with all people. A foundation for the Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s (NWMO) work includes respect for life in all its forms, for future generations and for the biosphere as a whole. Understanding water, its quality and its memory is essential to our work with communities to protect the water we share.

In fact, the entire purpose of Canada's plan is to protect people and the environment—including water. This is at the very heart of constructing a deep geological repository to safely contain and isolate Canada’s used nuclear fuel for the long term. 

Water at repository depth, which is more than 500 metres below the ground we walk on, is known as deep groundwater. It is isolated from watersheds and has essentially been disconnected from the water we see and use for millions or even billions of years. 

Read more to see how water brings us all together. 

The NWMO water stewards who are featured in the “Protecting water together” video series are people we employ and partner with who are dedicated to protecting water. We asked three of our water stewards what water means to them.


Water Steward: Dr. Bob Hanner


Dr. Bob Hanner is a Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of Guelph. “To me, water means life. The feeling that water evokes for me is tranquility quite often,” says Dr. Hanner.

The NWMO and the University of Guelph’s Hanner Lab have partnered on a joint environmental DNA (eDNA) research program to understand biodiversity conditions around potential repository sites. To date, this is the most ambitious project of its kind ever undertaken and the research will benefit the broader global scientific community.

As part of the program, the Hanner Lab, alongside the NWMO’s environmental scientists, is collecting and analyzing water samples to learn about aquatic species from surrounding areas. eDNA is a non-invasive technology to detect what species are present by looking at DNA that is naturally shed by animals. The data collected will inform the NWMO’s ongoing environmental baseline monitoring program and establish the baseline conditions of the ecosystems. 

“Through conversations we’ve had with Elders in this research, I’ve been exposed to new ways of knowing and thinking about the land, and our perspective as stewards of it. We’re working to align the western science with Indigenous Knowledge through better understanding of the landscape,” says Dr. Hanner.


Water Steward: Joanne Jacyk

For Joanne Jacyk, the NWMO’s Director, Site Selection Ignace/Northwest and former Manager of Environment Programs, water is about connections. “In my personal life, it’s where I gather with my family and where I feel the most centered and balanced, and connected to what’s going around me,” says Ms. Jacyk. 

“One of the teachings I’ve been blessed with through some of the Indigenous Elders I’ve been lucky enough to work with, is to think in those seven generations. Not just looking at the past, not just looking at the present but really looking through those generations and thinking about what your responsibility is to that timeline, to those people who come after you,” Ms. Jacyk adds. 

Through our environment programs, we’re investing in and supporting a range of projects to advance our understanding of water, contribute to the conservation of aquatic species and local habitats in the siting areas, provide financial support to people to improve their water wells, and participate in water conservation and shoreline preservation efforts. 

The goal of this work is also to establish the baseline conditions surrounding the potential repository sites and to deepen knowledge and understanding of the local environment so that we can ensure we are best prepared to protect it today and for the long term. 


Water Steward: Elder Diane Longboat

Elder Longboat is a member of the Turtle Clan and Mohawk Nation at Six Nations Grand River Territory and a member of the Council of Knowledge Holders. For Elder Longboat, water stewardship is a sacred responsibility and duty.

“Water is life. The absence of water is death. I’m so grateful we have water because the Creator’s compassion moves through this water and enables all life to continue,” says Elder Longboat. “Water has memory. Water has spirit. Water can communicate with us.”

We are committed to working with communities, including Indigenous Knowledge Holders, to ensure the long-term safety and protection of our precious water resources. 
 
About the NWMO

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is a not-for-profit organization tasked with the safe, long-term management of Canada’s used nuclear fuel inside a deep geological repository, in a manner that protects people and the environment for generations to come.

Founded in 2002, the NWMO has been guided for more than 20 years by a dedicated team of world-class scientists, engineers and Indigenous Knowledge Holders that are developing innovative and collaborative solutions for nuclear waste management. Canada’s plan will only proceed in an area with informed and willing hosts, where the municipality, First Nation and Métis communities, and others in the area are working together to implement it. The NWMO plans to select a site in 2024, and two areas remain in our site selection process: the Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation-Ignace area in northwestern Ontario and the Saugeen Ojibway Nation-South Bruce area in southern Ontario.
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The NWMO

The NWMO is a not-for profit organization established in 2002 by Canada's nuclear electricity producers in accordance with the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act (NFWA).

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