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Traditional Knowledge and Scientific Data Education, Comparison and Collaboration in Northeast BC Surface Water Use

Lead Researcher(s):  S. Lapp, R.L. Rolick

Key Researcher(s):  D. Cottrell, E.G. Johnson

Project ID:  2019-018

Key Research Organization(s):  BC Energy Regulator, Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation, Shell Canada Ltd.

Project Location:  Northeast BC

Strategic Focus Area:  Water


This project is one of three that contributed to the Pilot Collaborative Water Monitoring Program, Northeast BC. It provides foundational research that can help inform evidence-based decisions for industry, governments, Indigenous groups and communities. 

This project was a first step in using both Traditional Knowledge and Western data relating to water in British Columbia’s Northeast Region (NEBC). Specifically, this project brought together researchers and Indigenous representatives from McLeod Lake Indian Band and Halfway River First Nation. Community representatives shared Traditional Knowledge, providing cultural indicators that can be integrated with Western scientific data collected under the project Northeast BC Hydrometric Monitoring Network Improvements.

Visit the following program page to learn more about this project


Specifically, the goals of this project were to:

  • Work with Indigenous communities to select sites of interest for monitoring surface water and groundwater in NEBC;
  • Collaborate with Indigenous communities to collect Traditional Knowledge at selected sites;
  • Install up to hydrometric stations being installed by the Northeast BC Hydrometric Monitoring Network Improvements project);
  • Assess the gap between Traditional Knowledge observations and Western science, with the goal of an eventual common understanding between the two types of data; and
  • Share results of the pilot project findings in a presentation to Treaty 8 First Nations.


This work is considered the first phase in a longer collaborative process. The project will improve future water management decisions and promote collaboration with First Nations, helping to address their concerns with current water management.

In addition to collecting baseline data recommended in the Scientific Review of Hydraulic Fracturing in British Columbia report, this program aims to combine the data from both Western science and Traditional Knowledge from Treaty 8 First Nations in the study area, and to build local capacity for monitoring surface water, groundwater and climate for future work.

As well as developing capacity and creating new monitoring opportunities for Treaty 8 First Nations, the Program provides an opportunity for the Nations to have a say in – and access to – research that informs water use and resource development decisions in their traditional territory. The projects provide an opportunity for Traditional Knowledge to be included alongside other data when assessing watershed health.

The inclusion of Western science and Traditional Knowledge data will help to more accurately inform water management decisions, and will provide additional and helpful data to the Northeast Water Tool (NEWT), which is used to support water management decisions.

The new public data generated by the Pilot Collaborative Water Monitoring Program, Northeast BC is improving the understanding of surface water quantity, quality and availability in the region, as well as providing supporting groundwater and climate data to begin assessing watershed water balances and groundwater-surface water interaction for regulators, energy companies, communities, Indigenous groups and academia. This pilot program will be used to assess the methodology proposed, including the use of Traditional Knowledge, and use any lessons learned in expanding and/or adapting this type of project work in the future, as well as further developing relationships with the First Nations involved.


Northeast Region, British Columbia


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