Analysis of challenges and opportunities to meaningful Indigenous engagement in sustainable water and wastewater management
Access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation continue to be significant issues affecting Indigenous populations worldwide. The full participation of Indigenous peoples within water and wastewater policy and decision-making has been hindered by many factors, including capacity, inadequate resources and, overall, a lack of respect or formal recognition of Indigenous rights. This study investigates limitations to engagement around water and wastewater management and policy. Findings from this study show that in order to improve engagement with Indigenous people on water and wastewater management policy, systemic issues need to be addressed, in addition to gaining a greater understanding of the specific socio-economic conditions, and technical and financial capacity gaps, and the recognition of inherent Indigenous rights is necessary. It is concluded that long-term sustainability of water and wastewater management necessitates Indigenous engagement from the start, as well as increased autonomy over the management of their systems, including financing. The findings from this paper can be used by policy-makers and decision-makers to address the urgent issue of access to safe drinking water and sanitation, by improving the level of engagement with community members, and challenging the status-quo of top-down approaches through community-driven processes.