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Residential Water Use Indicator

In 2009, 72% of Canadian households were equipped with water meters, an increase from 52% of households in 1991. Over the same period, average daily water use dropped from 342 litres per person in 1991 to 274 litres per person in 2009. In 2009, metered households on volume-based water pricing schemes used 39% less water per person than unmetered households on flat-rate water pricing schemes.

Households on metered water systems and per capita residential water use, Canada, 1991 to 2009

Households on metered water systems and per capita residential water use, Canada, 1991 to 2009

Note: Data only refer to households served by municipal water systems; private water systems are not included.
Source: Environment Canada’s Municipal Water and Wastewater Survey.

Despite improvements in household water conservation, Canada remains one of the largest per capita users of fresh water in the world.[1] Urban growth, expanding industry and climate change can put pressure on Canadian cities’ ability to supply water to households. Rising water demand, combined with the high costs of building and repairing water infrastructure, continue to make household water conservation a priority for many communities.

In 2009, households used 57% of water provided by municipalities.[2] The price of water has a major influence on the amount of water used by households. Municipalities price water following two approaches. In flat-rate pricing, households are charged the same price for water regardless of the amount used, an approach commonly found in municipalities with no water meters. In volume-based pricing, municipalities with water meters base their charges for water on the actual amount of water used. In 2009, unmetered households used a daily average of 376 litres per person compared to 229 litres per person by metered households.[2] Household metering and volume-based pricing increase consumer awareness about water use and provide a financial incentive to conserve water.

Although water pricing influences water use, other factors such as location and weather conditions can affect household water use. For example, the summer months of 2009 were relatively cool and wet across much of Canada compared to 2006. As a result, households may have used less water for outdoor activities such as lawn watering.

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