Gaining Insights About Water: The Value of Surveys in First Nations Communities to Inform Water Governance


  • Julia Baird Environmental Sustainability Research Centre, Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario
  • Blair Carter Environment and Resource Studies, University of Waterloo
  • Kate Cave Environment and Resource Studies, University of Waterloo
  • Diane Dupont Environmental Sustainability Research Centre and Department of Economics, Brock University
  • Paul General Six Nations of the Grand River
  • Clynt King Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation
  • Ryan Plummer Environmental Sustainability Research Centre, Brock University Stockholm Resilience Centre
  • Apryl Varewyck Oneida Nation of the Thames


Knowledge of how water is perceived, used and managed in a community is critical to the endeavour of water governance. Surveys of individuals residing in a community offer a valuable avenue to gain information about several of these aspects of water. This paper draws upon experiences in three First Nation communities to explore the values of surveys to illuminate water issues and inform water decision-making. Findings from experiences with surveys in Six Nations of the Grand River, Mississaugas of the New Credit, and Oneida First Nation of the Thames reveal rich information about how surveys can provide insights about: the connection of individuals to the land, water and their community; reasons for valuing water; perceptions of water quality and issues surrounding water-related advisories; and, degree of satisfaction with water management and governance at different scales. Community partners reflected upon the findings of the survey for their community. Dialogue was then broadened across the cases as the partners offer benefits and challenges associated with the survey. Community surveys offer an important tool in the resource managers’ toolbox to understand social perceptions of water and provide valuable insights that may assist in improving its governance.


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