Water is a life force that sustains us, flows between us, and shapes the land. Protecting water, people and the environment is a priority we share with Canadians and Indigenous peoples.

The entire purpose of Canada's plan – the reason we are investing time, effort and money to implement it – is to protect people and the environment, including water.

Throughout our work, we have learned water is a great teacher. When we follow where the water flows, we get hints of history.

For example, the borehole drilling in South Bruce and Ignace and area  is teaching us more about traces of water deep underground in the cracks and spaces in the soil, sand and rock. This will help us verify that the geology is a good choice for a deep geological repository.

By studying water on the surface in lakes and rivers, we’re learning more about how water flows and interacts with the surrounding environment so that we always ensure to respect and protect it.

And, by interweaving Indigenous Knowledge and Western Science, listening to Indigenous Knowledge Keepers, Elders, scientists, conservation authorities, industry professionals, youth and others we are constantly learning about water including the sacred and spiritual relationship Indigenous peoples, especially Indigenous women, have with water and that their voice is integral to water protection.

Our Commitment to Protecting Water

Western Science

There is a strong global scientific consensus that deep geological repositories are the best method to protect the environment – including water – and people for generations to come.

The proposed deep geological repository will contain and isolate used nuclear fuel from water and the surrounding environment using multiple barriers.

One barrier is the rock itself. The repository will be built deep underground in rock where there is very little water and where what tiny traces of water that exist move very slowly. This is important because it is a sign that the rock has essentially been disconnected from the water we see on the surface for millions or even billions of years. 

Bentonite clay is another barrier. Bentonite is proven to be a powerful barrier to water flow. It swells when exposed to water, making it an excellent sealing material. Bentonite is also very stable, as see in natural formations formed millions to hundred of millions of years ago.

We also plan to use a thin copper coating on the used nuclear fuel containers, which are made of steel, to act as another barrier to prevent water from reaching the fuel. Copper is a natural material that is known to be durable under deep rock conditions. Naturally pure copper ore has been mined from around the Great Lakes region and Indigenous communities have explored the copper deposits in the same area for thousands of years, building substantial local, traditional knowledge.

Indigenous Knowledge

Elders and Traditional Knowledge Keepers have told us that access to and preservation of water is particularly top-of-mind to Indigenous peoples who have travelled by and been sustained by these waters since time immemorial. This knowledge brings a deeper understanding to the NWMO’s process for selecting a site to safely and securely store Canada’s used nuclear fuel.

Indigenous peoples see water as Mother Earth’s lifeline, so it is important that our work protects Mother Earth and protects water.

In Indigenous peoples’ worldview, everything Mother Earth created has spirit and it is viewed as alive, including water. The NWMO understands and respects this important belief, and we are committed to protecting water and the communities that surround it.

We are working with communities, including Indigenous Knowledge Keepers, to ensure our work is guided by the responsibility to protect people and the environment, including water for future generations.

Our Investment in Water Protection

As part of our commitment to protect water, we invest in and support a wide range of initiatives to advance our understanding of water including, but not limited to:

Role of Water in Our Work

Understanding water, its quality, its memory, and where it’s flowing is essential for us to be able to make good decisions as we do our work.

By listening to and working with Indigenous Knowledge Keepers, Elders, scientists, conservation authorities, industry professionals, youth and others and interweaving what we learn into our work, we are continuously assessing our potential impact on water quality, water systems and the surrounding environment to ensure that we continue to protect all types of water.