SaskWater's First Nations Operator Training Program has a long history of providing hands-on training and support to Indigenous water and wastewater operators in Saskatchewan. On behalf of Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), SaskWater trained 73 local operators in 29 First Nations communities in 2018-19.
The program began in 1978, when the Department of Northern Saskatchewan set out to assist northern residents in the operation and maintenance of treatment plants in their communities. In 1984, the northern training program came under the direction of the newly formed Saskatchewan Water Corporation. Within the same year, a contract agreement with ISC shifted the program's focus, and SaskWater's First Nations Operator Training Program was established.
The program has a hands-on, practical approach that is designed to equip operators with the skills and experience they need to operate and maintain their treatment systems. Circuit rider trainers are available by phone and are in the plants regularly to help operators trouble-shoot specific issues. In addition, they are involved in creating emergency response plans and preventative maintenance plans.
SaskWater's contract with ISC has grown from its original intent to serve two communities in 1984, to 29 communities today. Through the years, SaskWater has taken on more work for ISC, including an ongoing contract for water consumption records collection.
A few communities involved in the First Nations Operator Training Program include:
- Keeseekoose First Nation
- Chitek Lake First Nation
- Kawacatoose First Nation
- Fishing Lake First Nation
- Red Pheasant First Nation
- Sweetgrass First Nation
SaskWater's First Nations Operator Training Program has been successful in training local Indigenous treatment operators with best-practice results. Along the way, the training manual and program approach became a template for similar programs adopted in Alaska, Manitoba and Alberta. The provincial programs eventually evolved into the ISC Circuit Rider Training Program, which is used across Canada to train water and wastewater treatment operators.
For more information, visit saskwater.com.