Slave River and Slave River Delta Node

The Slave River and Slave River Delta (SRD) connects Lake Athabasca in Alberta to Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories, thus creating a unique ecosystem with great diversity in plants and animals. The Slave and SRD are important areas for migratory birds, including ducks and geese, and for spawning fish. Other species such as bears, musk-oxen, deer and cougars, have been spotted in the Slave River area.  The Slave River is also the natural border of Canada's largest national park - and one of the largest parks in the world - Wood Buffalo National Park.

Challenges related to water management in this watershed

Communities in the Northwest Territories (NWT) are concerned about the health of the Slave River and SRD. Industrial activities upstream in the Athabasca and Peace watersheds are impacting water quantity and quality in the SRD. Aboriginal communities whose waters and lands are impacted need a means to do the following: assess the current situation, monitor future changes, and acquire information to inform management decisions. This can be accomplished with the development of a sustainable community-based monitoring program.

The Slave River watershed faces many challenges including resource development, manmade changes in hydrology in the head waters and global climate change. Chief concerns for the residents of the watershed are changes in the hydrology of the system affecting lands in the delta, silting in the river and winter ice conditions. A second major concern is the presence of chemical contaminants in the waters and fish which are the main food source of many communities. The Slave River, while it has a relatively small direct catchment, receives waters from some of the most intensive resource extraction projects in Canada. The repeated prolonged and diverse impacts on the river have eroded First Nations belief in the quality of the river’s waters and related biota. This lack of confidence is resulting in substantial economic, social and cultural hardship.

Proper management of the Slave River and catchment area is needed to ensure that the communities.

CWN-funded work and who is involved

In collaboration with the Slave River and Delta Partnership (SRDP) and local communities, researchers and partners will develop a Community Based Monitoring  program titled the Slave Watershed Environmental Effects Program (SWEEP), to empower communities to collect, interpret and use a system of environmental indicators to develop a range of environmental indicators to assess changes in the ecological ‘health’ of the Slave River and Delta. The focus will be on indicators of cumulative effects defined as changes to the environment that are caused by an action in combination with other past, present and future human actions. 

The SWEEP program will rely heavily on the involvement of the SRDP. The SRDP is a collaboration of agencies and organizations working and living in the Slave River and Delta basin. Partners include Smith’s Landing First Nation, NWT Métis Nation, Fort Resolution Métis, Deninu K’ue First Nation, Salt River First Nation, GNWT – Environment and Natural Resources, Land and Water Division, GNWT – Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) – South Slave Region, Aboriginal Affairs & Northern Development Canada, Water Resources, Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Yellowknife, Wood Buffalo National Park, Aurora College and the Aurora Research Institute.

SWEEP will also partner with Aurora College and the Deninu School to provide physical hubs for the community based monitoring programs.

The following researchers are conducting research through CWN:

  • Paul Jones, University of Saskatchewan
  • Tim Jardine, University of Saskatchewan
  • Lalita Bharadwaj, University of Saskatchewan
  • Lorne Doig, University of Saskatchewan
  • Karl-Erich Lindenschmidt, University of Saskatchewan
  • Dr. Howard Wheater, University of Saskatchewan
  • Dr. Karsten Liber, University of Saskatchewan
  • Dr. Peter Hodson, Queens University
  • Dr. Jan Ciborowski, University of Windsor


(5-page report)

CWN EN SlaveRiver 2016