Statcan : First comprehensive, national level estimate of freshwater flow

June 18, 2009 The Daily  

Canada’s renewable water assets each year amount to a volume of water about the size of Lake Huron. These assets are mostly the result of rain and melted snow that flow over the ground, eventually reaching our rivers and lakes.

Between 1971 and 2000, the volume of this water runoff amounted to an annual average of 3 435 cubic kilometres. Lake Huron contains roughly 3 540 cubic kilometres.

This is the first comprehensive estimate of freshwater flow at the national level using a systematic methodology that has been consistently applied across the country.

The quantity of runoff varies across the country. There is less runoff and greater year-to-year variability in the Prairie provinces and in parts of central and south-east British Columbia. Smaller quantities and higher variability point to potential issues between the availability of water resources and the often competing demands for those resources.

Each year the Canadian economy withdraws about 1.4% of the country’s renewable water resources.

Industrial activities such as energy generation, mining and manufacturing withdrew approximately 40 cubic kilometres of water in 2005. Agriculture withdrew an estimated 4 cubic kilometres in 2001, while Canadian households, institutions and services withdrew another 4 cubic kilometres.

Though water withdrawals represent a small portion of total annual renewable water, the location and the timing of the withdrawals and the location and the timing of the availability of water resources are not generally taken into account. The model used in this report can help fill some of these information gaps.

The article “Measuring renewable water assets in Canada: Initial results and research agenda” is now available in EnviroStats, Summer 2009, Vol. 3, no. 2 (16-002-X, free), from the Publications module of our website.

Also available is the full report The Water Yield for Canada as a Thirty-year Average (1971 to 2000): Concepts, Methodology and Initial Results (16-001-M, free).

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact the Information Officer (613-951-0297;, Environment Accounts and Statistics Division.


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