Remote B.C. First Nation celebrates arrival of clean tap water

For 20 years, the Lhoosk'uz Dené First Nation has been trucking in bottled water. Now, thanks to a partnership with experts at the University of British Columbia, those days are over.

A special ceremony was held last week to celebrate the nation finally getting clean tap water.

It's a milestone Chief Liliane Squinas says took years of work to achieve.

"(It) seems like forever," Squinas said. "We've never had drinking water."

The UBC team worked with the community to make sure the system can be locally operated and maintained without specialized or expensive equipment.

The new system replaces communal wells that the nation had been using for household water needs, while trucking in their drinking water via the one logging road that leads to their village.

The remoteness of the community - it's 200 kilometres west of Quesnel - made the previous arrangement worrisome.

"It's been a major concern," Squinas said. "Mostly the cost of hauling bottled water out, sometimes it's on a weekly basis."

The new system relies on two levels of disinfection: ultraviolet light, followed by chlorination.

Dr. Majid Mohseni, a chemical and biological engineering professor who led the UBC team, said the technology itself is less important than the process through which it was developed.

"The community voices are heard," Mohseni said. "The community is involved, right from the get-go, so we develop a solution that is specific to the community's needs."

In the Lhoosk'uz Dené's case, those needs included safe, good-tasting drinking water at a scale that matched the community's size, while being easy to maintain and repair locally.

"(It's) something that we've looked forward to for many years, which we never, ever thought we'd ever accomplish," Squinas said.

With files from CTV News Vancouver’s Nafeesa Karim