Canada’s seeming abundance of water has masked a looming scarcity challenge.
Although Canada is blessed with a wealth of freshwater, it is not immune to water scarcity and overuse. Water use by major natural resource sectors, along with increasing consumption from a growing population and pressures from climate change, puts considerable strain on our water supply and the health of ecosystems.
The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE) just released Changing currents: water sustainability and the future of Canada’s natural resource sectors, the first of two reports on the relationship of water and its use by our natural resource sectors.
Changing currents documents the use and consumption of Canada’s freshwater supplies by the electricity, oil and gas, agriculture, forest and mining sectors. It highlights the challenges ahead to ensure sustainable water use by these key economic sectors. The NRTEE report concludes that:
- Data on precise water use and access to them is limited, making it difficult to know the national supply of water and the amounts being used.
- Approaches to allocating water in most of Canada are increasingly outdated and may no longer be appropriate given new environmental pressures and competing economic interests.
- Several levels of governments share jurisdiction over monitoring and managing water, leading to potential confusion among businesses that need water for production.
- There is an overall lack of capacity and expertise across the country to effectively manage water resources
- The impacts of climate change are expected to transform the way Canadians need to manage water resources.
NRTEE states that a new, national water framework would help prevent current regional scarcity challenges from becoming national ones. It would help ensure the viability of our natural resource sectors, which need water to grow and prosper. And, most important, a national water framework would help maintain the sustainability of our water sources.