The bands say Ottawa built substandard water treatment facilities on their reserves and didn't provide enough support to upgrade them when First Nations took over their operation.
A statement of claim alleges bad drinking water has resulted in poor health, failing communities and stunted economic growth.
In 2011, a federal report found that water systems were at high or medium risk of failure on almost three-quarters of reserves.
The Harper government says it has spent about $3 billion since 2006 on aboriginal water systems and has legislated tougher standards.
Aboriginals say those standards don't mean anything without the resources to implement them.