Council of Canadian Academies: Canadian agriculture is faced with great opportunities, but also challenged by water-related risks and uncertainties.

Water and Agriculture in Canada: Towards Sustainable Management of Water Resources 

The agricultural sector is an important contributor to Canada’s prosperity and well-being and there are substantial opportunities for the sector in the coming decades. However, Canadian agriculture is also challenged by water-related risks and uncertainties. Growing competition for water, land, and other resources, in addition to the uncertain impact of climate change and variability, will place increased stress on agricultural production in Canada and throughout the world. To better understand this complex issue, the Council was asked by Agriculture and Agri-Food to conduct an evidence-based assessment to identify what additional science is needed to better guide sustainable management of water to meet the needs of agriculture.

To conduct the assessment, the Council convened a Panel of 15 Canadian and international experts from diverse fields. Dr. Howard Wheater, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Water Security, chaired the Expert Panel.

The Panel has developed an authoritative report that explores five key areas where additional science and action can contribute to better sustainable management of water in agriculture.

These five key areas are:

The risks and uncertainties of market conditions, competition for land and water resources, and climate change;

Improved monitoring and data interpretation that could be used to facilitate adaptive management techniques;

The interaction between land management and water resources – including the assessment of beneficial management practices (BMPs), conservation agriculture, and ecosystem services approaches;

Promising farm-scale technologies that could contribute to efficient water use, reduced environmental impacts, and sound investment decisions;

Governance structures, valuation techniques, economic incentives, and knowledge transfer strategies that would help to facilitate better management decisions and uptake of sustainable practices;


What additional science is needed to better guide sustainable management of water to meet the needs of agriculture?

Report and related products:

Expert Panel

The Expert Panel on Sustainable Management of Water in Agricultural Landscapes of Canada was chaired by Dr. Howard Wheater, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Water Security, Professor, School of Environment and Sustainability and Department of Civil and Geological Engineering, College of Engineering, University of Saskatchewan. For a complete list of panel members visit the Expert Panel on Sustainable Management of Water in Agricultural Landscapes of Canada page.

For further information, please contact:

Cate Meechan, Director of Communications at 613-567-5000 ext. 228 or


Saskatchewan aims to protect water from source to tap with 25-year plan

via: The Canadian Press
Published Monday, Oct. 15, 2012

The Saskatchewan government has outlined a 25-year plan that it says will protect water supplies from the source to the tap.

The 25 Year Saskatchewan Water Security Plan has seven goals:

  • Sustainable Supplies
  • Safe Drinking Water
  • Protection of Water Resources
  • Safe Dams
  • Flood and Drought Damage Reduction
  • Adequate Data, Information and Knowledge
  • Effective Governance and Engagement

The Vision Statement of the Plan,”Water supporting economic growth, quality of life and environmental well-being” is supported by the following principles:

Long-Term Perspective: Water management decisions will be undertaken within the context of a 25-year time horizon.

Water for Future Generations: A sustainable approach to water use will protect the quality and quantity of water now and for the future.

Integrated Approach to Management: Water decisions will integrate the multiple objectives and information pertaining to the economic development, ecological, hydrological, human health, and social aspects of water, considering circumstances and needs that may be unique to a watershed or region, to achieve a balanced outcome.

Partnerships and Participation: The provincial government will facilitate collaboration in the development and implementation of water management decisions.

Shared Responsibility: All residents, communities and levels of government share responsibility for the wise use and management of water.

Value of Water: Water is essential to life and will be treated as a finite resource that is used efficiently and effectively to best reflect its economic, social, and environmental importance.

Continuous Improvement: Water management will be adaptive and supported by sound monitoring, risk assessment, evaluation, research, innovation, and best practices.

The province says conservation is critical and could be achieved through pricing strategies.

But the plan adds that new reservoirs, pipelines and canals may also be necessary to meet demand.

Water demand is highest in the southern part of the province because of industrial development such as potash mines.

Other goals include ensuring dams meet water supply and management needs safely and making sure measures are in place to respond to floods or drought.

“We want to ensure there is a sustainable water supply available to support our growth, a healthy environment and our quality of life,” Ken Cheveldayoff, minister responsible for the new Water Security Agency, said Monday.

Saskatchewan’s new Water Security Agency will report annually on how the plan is working.


Water Canada: Wastewater Effluent Regs and FCM reaction

(Via: Water Canada) Feds Implement Wastewater Effluent Regs 
Posted on July 18, 2012

After over three years of discussion, including very public feedback the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and the Canadian Water and Wastewater Association, the federal government has announced that it will finally implement the national Wastewater System Effluent Regulations.

“We want water that is clean, safe, and plentiful for future generations of Canadians to enjoy,” said Minister of Environment Peter Kent this morning in Delta, British Columbia. “Through these regulations, we are addressing one of the largest sources of pollution in our waters. We’ve set the country’s first national standards for sewage treatment. These standards will reduce the levels of harmful substances deposited to surface water from wastewater systems in Canada.”

The feds worked with provinces and territories, and also engaged municipalities, to finalize these regulations. According to a release, it is expected that about 75 per cent of existing wastewater systems already meet the minimum secondary wastewater treatment standards in the regulations. Communities and municipalities that meet the standards will not need to make upgrades to their systems. The other 25 per cent will have to upgrade to at least secondary wastewater treatment.

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BuffaloNews: Great Lakes system faces serious threats

Column by Douglas Turner for Buffalo News

July 23, 2012

WASHINGTON – Looking south from Bay Beach, Ont., it seemed as though one could walk all the way across Lake Erie south to Sturgeon Point, N.Y. The Great Lakes system, recording its lowest levels in more than a half-century, is under severe and continuing stress from global warming.

The effect on one-fifth of the world’s surface supply of fresh water is obviously opposite from that on the oceans, which are gradually rising.

The system is meticulously surveyed by at least three American agencies, but it is not really governed as it should be to safeguard it from predators, foreign and domestic. Rather, it is overseen under a 103-year-old treaty, fashioned with Canada when it was still part of the British Empire.

The binational International Joint Commission, with its immense bureaucracy, monitors and advises governments on water diversions and channel levels. But the IJC could not protect the lakes from generations of toxic industrial waste dumping that killed the commercial fishery and came close to making the system unswimmable. It cannot protect it now.

The 1960s environmental movement and the wholesale flight to Asia of industry from the lakes basin was what temporarily rescued the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River basin.

But new threats to shallow Lake Erie, in particular, are massive. They include:

* The opening in 2014 of the massive new Canadian water tunnel above Niagara Falls, which will enable Ontario to match the New York Power Authority’s increased diversions for hydro purposes.

* Unloading of a volatile new phosphorous runoff from the 120-mile Maumee River near Toledo, Ohio, creating huge new beds of poisonous algae, according to an article in the Voice, a Montclair, Mich., weekly. This is a direct threat to the lake’s revived sports fishery.

* The reported signing by Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich of a bill that could, according to environmental critics, allow industry to withdraw millions of gallons a day from Lake Erie.

The bill is similar to one sought by Ohio’s Chamber of Commerce that Kasich vetoed last year, after appeals from Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y., and former Ohio Gov. Bob Taft.

It is unclear whether other Great Lakes governors or Canada can block the Ohio law under a 1990 international compact. But it is designed to be immune from challenges by environmentalists.

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EMC News: Brighter future for Tay River, Perth initiative is all about green

EMC News – The future of the Tay River looks brighter thanks to a three-pronged initiative by the Town of Perth that will lead to significant improvements in water quality over the next decade.

The town’s strategic plan, “Community Plan 2022,” includes specific initiatives over the next 10 years that will help remove contaminants entering the river from Perth’s water treatment plant and sewage lagoon, as well as run-off from storm sewers.

Some of the innovative solutions Perth will use to accomplish these goals should serve as a model for other small communities to follow, said Trish Johnson, senior environmental consultant with the town’s engineering consulting firm, R.V. Anderson Associates. “This integrated concept is really the kind of thing that makes a green community. They’re not only leading by example, they are actually challenging existing practices and creating new best practices.”

Ordered by the provincial Ministry of the Environment to begin treating waste water discharged from its water treatment plant, Perth was faced with the prospect of having to construct a multi-million dollar treatment plant. Instead, the town has chosen what Johnson described as a low cost, low-tech solution to the problem. This summer the town will call for bids to install a geotube to filter the water being discharged from the water treatment plant. The geotube, a textile membrane, will filter solids from the water before it is returned to the river. These solids include alum, a chemical used in the purification of drinking water.

Geotubes are already being used to treat sewage in other communities, including Eganville, but Perth will be the first municipality to use the technology to purify run-off from its water treatment plant, said Johnson.

The environmental consultant credits the town with having the vision to pursue this lower cost option rather than building an expensive treatment plant. With government grants for such projects no longer available, Johnson said, “I’m beginning to see the end of an era of big, shiny plants.”

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TheStar: Conservative government shutting down northern Ontario world-class freshwater research facility Conservative government shutting down northern Ontario world-class freshwater research facility

May 17, 2012

Allan Woods

OTTAWA—The Conservative government is shuttering a scientific “jewel” in northern Ontario that has put Canada at the forefront of global freshwater lake research, the Toronto Star has learned.

The federal fisheries department announced Thursday morning that it intends to close down the Experimental Lakes Area, a collection of 58 lakes near Kenora.

From acid rain to mercury levels to climate change and the effects of household phosphates on freshwater ecosystems, the open-air research facility has seen it all, and often been the site of world-leading breakthroughs in science.

“In our scientific community it’s an international jewel,” said Yves Prairie, a professor in the department of biology at Universite du Quebec a Montreal. “This is where some of the most significant advances in our science have occurred in the last 40 years.”

“For us, it’s completely incredible that the government would shut it down given the international stature that it has and the importance for the field.”

The word comes as federal lawmakers debate a controversial budget billthat eases rules on environmental assessments, removes protection for fish and wildlife and scraps agencies like the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy, an independent panel struck to help Ottawa balance environmental protection with economic growth.

Before the Experimental Lakes Area was created, biologists studying freshwater lakes and ecosystems were forced to collect water in containers and truck it back to the lab for tests and experiments with less than reliable results.

After the Ontario government deeded the area to the federal government in the late 1960s, scientists were able to manipulate whole lakes to study some of the most pressing water issues of the day.

Since then, it has drawn some of the top scientists into freshwater ecosystems from Canada, the United States and around the world.

In announcing the closure, the government said such work is now better carried out by universities and non-governmental organizations.

“Their assertion that universities can do this sort of stuff is just absurd. They simply do not give, via any of their mechanisms, the kind of money needed to run a facility like that,” said David Schindler, a University of Alberta ecology professor who helped to set up the Experimental Lakes Area.

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EPA releases draft National Water Program 2012 Strategy

via @climateandwater Draft EPA “National Water Program 2012 Strategy: Response to Climate Change” Released for Public Comment

EPA’s Draft 2012 Strategy adresses climate change impacts on water resources and EPA’s water programs. Climate change alters the water cycle and could affect the implementation of EPA’s programs. EPA and our state, tribal, local and federal partners must review and adapt the practices that have been developed over the past 40 years since passage of the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and other statutes. Ensuring that EPA’s programs continue to protect public health, and the environment that sustains our communities and the economy, requires immediate and continuous collaboration.

National Water Program 2012 Strategy: Response to Climate Change—Public Comment Draft (PDF) (112pp, 3.6MB, About PDF)

How to Comment:

Comments must be received on or before May 17, 2012, 45 days after publication in the Federal Register.