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Both total2 and residential water use per capita showed a more significant drop over 2006 to 2009 than between previous survey cycles. The 2009 average residential water use per person was 274 litres per capita per day (Lcd), a 53 Lcd drop from 2006. Total water use per person dropped by 79 Lcd, from 591 Lcd in 2006 to 510 Lcd in 2009.
* Data on total water use per capita is not available for 1999.
These results suggest a possible trend towards more sustainable use of water resources in the municipal sector. Canadians have consistently ranked among the world’s highest users of water, with per capita water use well above that of European and many other industrialized nations.3 High water use can contribute to a wide variety of environmental and economic problems, including water shortages; the drawdown of aquifers in areas served by groundwater; increased temperature and concentration of pollutants in water bodies; costly expansion of water and wastewater infrastructure; and increased energy consumption for pumping and treating water and wastewater.
The encouraging results from 2009 must nevertheless be understood within the context of climatic factors that may have affected municipal water use in that year. For Canada overall, temperature was below the 1971–2000 normal--and below 2006 temperatures--from May through July 2009, and was only very slightly above normal in August. Meanwhile, rainfall was higher than both the 2006 level and the 1971–2000 normal in July and August 2009. The lower temperatures in June and July and higher rainfall in July and August could have contributed to the lower per capita water use in 2009 compared to 2006, particularly in the residential sector where lawn watering constitutes an important end-use of water in the summer months.
Total and residential per capita water use dropped in all municipal size groups and provinces/territories except for Saskatchewan and New Brunswick (Prince Edward Island also showed a very slight increase of 2 Lcd in total water use). The greatest drop in total water use per capita was seen in communities of less than 50 000 people, while it was in communities of 2 000 to 50 000 people that residential water use decreased most significantly. In spite of this, the results show that larger communities continue to have relatively lower per capita water use. Total per capita water use was 497 Lcd (251 Lcd residential) in municipalities with a population of 500 000 or more and 756 (426 Lcd residential) in municipalities with less than 1 000 people.
Per capita water use also varies across the provinces and territories. Of the provinces, Manitoba, Alberta and Ontario have the lowest total water use per capita, while Prince Edward Island, Manitoba and Alberta have the lowest residential water use per capita.
|MWWS results and responding population|
The MWWS is a voluntary survey and, therefore, response rates vary slightly from cycle to cycle. These changes can have an impact on the survey results. However, as the response rate is close to 100% for large communities (50 000 people or more) and most of the statistics are weighted by population, the impact of the changes in responding population on results at the national level is slight.
While the exact causes of the drop in total and residential water use per capita between the 2006 and 2009 survey cycles would require further study to determine, it is certain that it is not simply the results of different response rates in the two survey years.
For total water use per capita, approximately 75% of the 2009 data set (by population) was composed of municipalities that responded in both 2006 and 2009. For residential water use per capita, 62% of the data set (by population) was composed of municipalities that responded in both 2006 and 2009. A significant drop in total and residential water use per capita is observed even when looking only at municipalities that responded in both 2006 and 2009.
|Total water use||Residential water use|
|Number of responding municipalities||Responding population||Total water use per capita (litres/capita/
|Number of responding municipalities||Responding population||Residential* water use per capita (litres/capita/
|Newfoundland and Labrador||24||278 549||804||22||189 235||395|
|Prince Edward Island||4||52 582||505||4||52 582||189|
|Nova Scotia||18||436 981||512||17||436 120||292|
|New Brunswick||30||267 352||821||27||263 986||394|
|Quebec||272||5 465 132||706||225||4 393 874||386|
|Ontario||165||10 470 997||409||159||10 401 245||225|
|Manitoba||54||847 025||355||49||842 461||199|
|Saskatchewan||80||609 177||518||75||607 131||238|
|Alberta||124||2 837 712||395||115||2 756 461||209|
|British Columbia||87||2 766 835||606||86||2 764 564||353|
|Territories||6||39 448||599||6||39 448||391|
|Under 1000||154||74 099||756||136||65 249||426|
|1001–2000||142||159 338||528||120||135 276||371|
|2001–5000||172||446 134||712||157||410 304||385|
|5001–50 000||322||3 586 411||570||302||3 384 172||313|
|50 001–500 000||64||8 747 123||489||60||7 816 692||280|
|10||11 058 686||497||10||10 935 416||251|
|Total, 2009||864||24 071 791||510||785||22 747 109||274|
|Total, 2006||1 082||25 183 363||591**||1 043||25 074 414||327**|
Source: 2009 MWWS. Aggregated to municipal level and imputed for non-response using 2006 MWWS. Sustainable Water Management Division, Environment Canada.
* Includes single-family and multi-family.
2. Total water use per capita is the total volume of water delivered to the water distribution system, divided by the residential population served water. Total water use includes all end-uses of municipal-supplied water (residential, commercial, industries and agricultural operations that obtain their water from a municipal water supply) and water losses.