Grades 10-12 Lesson 5: The Tale of Saddle Lake Cree Nation

The Tale of Saddle Lake Cree Nation

Saddle Lake Cree Nation

“I’ve never seen a water supply in such poor shape! The lake is covered with blue greens, which make mats in nearshore areas. Yet this is a drinking water supply for several thousand First Nations people! This is a story that city people need to hear and see. They cannot imagine that we have water problems of this magnitude in Alberta.” – Dr. David Schindler

Background information

The community draws its water from Saddle Lake, which has 25-30 ppm of organics, as well as large algal blooms in the summer. The water treatment plant that was built in 1982 was still being used in 2010 and it relied on outdated treatment technologies that fouled consistently and required many chemicals to treat and disinfect the water. Even after treatment, water distributed by the old plant was among the worst in the country. Community members were so used to the poor water quality that it had just become a normal part of life. Almost half of the community’s residents required medical attention for gastrointestinal issues. In 2011, Saddle Lake upgraded its under-performing water treatment system to the first biological surface water treatment system in the world. Saddle Lake’s drinking water now meets or exceeds all Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality and installation of the new system immediately decreased the amount of chemicals required.

Lesson 5: The Tale of Saddle Lake

Grade: 10-12 (Science, Health, Social Studies)

Topic: This tale is a success story. This is the story of how Saddle Lake went from having drinking water that was of very poor quality and was making the residents of the community ill to having the first biological surface water treatment system in the world which produces water that meets all international guidelines, standards, recommendations, and regulations, and tastes and smells great.

Time: 1 Hour

Space requirement: Classroom

Materials: Smartboard or computer and projector, copies of the worksheet.

Objectives: Students will learn about what was wrong with the water in Saddle Lake Cree Nation and how the problem was solved.

Keywords: Cree Nation, Saddle Lake, Integrated Biological and Reverse Osmosis Membrane treatment system, biological treatment, surface water


1. Present the “The Tale of Saddle Lake Cree Nation” PowerPoint presentation to the students.

2. Ask students what they think about the situation, have a class discussion. Some possible questions to discuss are:

a. Why do you think First Nations communities often have source water of very poor quality?
b. How do you think more drinking water advisories in First Nations communities could be resolved?
c. What do you think is slowing or halting the resolution of drinking water advisories in First Nations communities?
d. How would you feel if you lived in Saddle Lake Cree Nation now?

3. Distribute the “The Tale of Saddle Lake Cree Nation” worksheets to the students. If you want to make completing the worksheets easier for the students, you can put the PowerPoint presentation on the screen in a rotating manner by doing the following:

1. Click on Transitions
2. Change the Advance Slide option to After and enter a number of seconds (perhaps 15 seconds).
3. Click Apply To All
4. Click on Slide Show
5. Click on Set Up Slide Show
6. Under Show options select Loop continuously until ‘Esc’
7. Click OK
8. Click From Beginning

Evaluation: Can be based on their participation in the class discussion as well as their answers to the worksheet questions (see the Saddle Lake Cree Nation Answer Key for Worksheets).


Biological Water Treatment System Ends a Boil Water Advisory at Saddle Lake Cree Nation. (August 2018). Retrieved from

Saddle Lake Cree Nation SIBROM. (February 2018). Retrieved from