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Threats to Water Availability in Canada

Overview

Clean, safe, secure and available water is essential to Canadians. As the Federal Government lead for water, Environment Canada recognizes the importance of strategically addressing water issues of concern to Canadians.

Increased national concerns about water quantity, including recent floods - like the devastating Saguenay and coastal British Columbia floods - droughts, glacier retreat, and the impacts of climate change have prompted this national science assessment, Threats to Water Availability in Canada. Production of this peer-reviewed document was directed by leading Environment Canada scientists from the National Water Research Institute (NWRI), Canada’s largest freshwater research institution, and the Meteorological Service of Canada (MSC), Canada’s leader in weather forecasting and climate science. (A companion report - Threats to Sources of Drinking Water and Aquatic Ecosystem Health in Canadadetailed the state of science on key water quality issues and was released by NWRI in 2002.)

This assessment has been written by experts from academe, industry, and various levels of government, who met in a writing workshop to develop their chapters, and subsequently continued in small writing teams to complete their work. All contributions were reviewed by other respected scientists in the field. The assessment comprises 15 chapters that collectively address a range of threats to water availability: for example, Dams, Reservoirs and Flow Regulation; Droughts; Floods; Residential/Urban Development; Industrial/Manufacturing Demands; Mining; Climate Variability and Change; and Integrated and Cumulative Impacts. As in the water quality report, each chapter details current status, trends, and knowledge and program needs.

The section Threats to Water Availability in Canada – A Perspective - written by a recognized Canadian authority in water sciences - is provided to give a flavour of each threat, and to identify key issues and findings. Readers are encouraged, however, to examine the particulars within the body of the document for a detailed treatment of issues. In addition, the author of that section has provided his own perspectives on key information gaps and associated recommendations. He has identified four broad areas for action: observational and data needs, critical research priorities, requirements for informed policies and effective management practices, and issues related to leadership.

Ultimately, the report is intended to serve water science decision-makers, resource managers, and the research community as an important reference for developing future research directions and priorities, and sound management policies and practices. The Steering Committee anticipates a lively debate among research, stakeholder and management communities on the issues and needs raised in the document; and looks forward to the timely development of an action plan to address them.