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Threats to Water Availability in Canada

Short Chapter Summaries

  1. Water Allocations, Diversion and Export
  2. Dams, Reservoirs and Flow Regulation
  3. Droughts
  4. Floods
  5. Municipal Water Supply and Urban Development
  6. Manufacturing and Thermal Energy Demands
  7. Land Use Practices and Changes - Agriculture
  8. Land-Use Practices and Changes - Forestry
  9. Land-Use Practices and Changes - Mining and Petroleum Production
  10. Climate Variability and Change - Groundwater Resources
  11. Climate Variability and Change - Rivers and Streams
  12. Climate Variability and Change - Lakes and Reservoirs
  13. Climate Variability and Change - Wetlands
  14. Climate Variability and Change - Crysophere
  15. Integrated and Cumulative Threats to Water Availability

 


1. WATER ALLOCATION, DIVERSION AND EXPORT

  • presents a brief overview of the history of water management and use in Canada and discusses international and inter-provincial apportionment (i.e., quantitative division of stream flows among jurisdictions), implications of inter-basin diversions, protection of “instream” values, and water export.

  • Read the Full Chapter

Ogoki River | Photo: Keith Bridger


2. DAMS, RESERVOIRS AND FLOW REGULATION

  • examines impacts of dams and other impoundments on water quality, river ice regimes, chemistry and thermal structure, sediment load and deposition, and the integrity of aquatic systems.

  • discusses dam safety and decommissioning issues and the need to reassess these in light of climate change and its future impacts on hydrologic regimes; sets out contrasting perceptions of dams as sources of “clean” hydropower and as possibly significant sources of greenhouse gases.

  • Read the Full Chapter

Manic 2A Gravity Dam | Photo: Hydro-Québec


3. DROUGHTS

  • discusses causes and impacts of droughts and their implications for freshwater availability, highlighting scientific concerns that climate change may increase drought frequency, duration and severity in all regions of the country.

  • summarizes current status of and future requirements for drought monitoring, modelling, and prediction, and discusses potential of drought adaptation strategies.

  • Read the Full Chapter

Drought


4. FLOODS

  • identifies direct and indirect pressures caused by floods and flooding on the availability of freshwater: for example, damaged infrastructure, contaminated water supplies, and changing patterns of groundwater recharge.

  • considers impacts of a warming climate on the timing and magnitude of floods, particularly in southern regions of the country; and highlights the need to reassess estimates of Probable Maximum Flood, update flood risk zoning maps and other planning approaches, and apply such tools more consistently in land use planning.

  • Read the Full Chapter

Flood of the Century, near Winnipeg, Manitoba | Credit: T.J. Pultz


5. MUNICIPAL WATER SUPPLY AND URBAN DEVELOPMENTS

  • examines growing stresses placed on water supplies by urban and rural development: for instance, impacts on storage and runoff patterns and on water quality; and provides information on the extent of reported water shortages resulting from increased consumption, drought or infrastructure problems.

  • discusses various strategies used to mitigate these pressures, including demand management and increasing emphasis on reuse and utilization of lower quality water sources.

  • Read the Full Chapter

Backwashing sand filters in a water treatment plant


6. MANUFACTURING AND THERMAL ENERGY DEMANDS

  • reviews the very large demands placed on the nation’s available water supply by the thermal power generation and manufacturing sectors, Canada's largest and second largest users of water.

  • addresses factors affecting their future requirements for water, identifies emerging issues, and highlights related policy, program and research needs

  • Read the Full Chapter

The paper and allied products sector uses, and recycles, enormous quantities of water in Canada


7. LAND USE PRACTICES AND CHANGES--AGRICULTURE

  • examines trends in agricultural water usage and issues arising from agricultural water demands, and draws attention to the fact that about 85% of agricultural water use is for irrigation, with climate change projected to increase this demand; points out improved techniques such as irrigation scheduling and drip irrigation can yield substantial savings in water usage, and urban wastewater also has potential for irrigation of some crops.

  • Read the Full Chapter

Drop tube irrigation system - conserving water and energy


8. LAND-USE PRACTICES AND CHANGES--FORESTRY

  • examines forests and forest practices in relation to the contributions they make and the threats they pose to the nation’s water resources; reviews impacts on the hydrologic cycle of forest fires, insect infestations, and practices such as clear-cutting, and discusses the important role played by forests in the global carbon cycle.

  • Read the Full Chapter

Forest fire south of Lake 240 in the Experimental Lakes Area in northwestern Ontario | Photo: D.W. Schindler


9. LAND-USE PRACTICES AND CHANGES--MINING AND PETROLEUM PRODUCTION

  • discusses uses of water by the mining and petroleum sectors, impacts of droughts, floods and climate change on their operations, and challenges faced by the industry in responding to increasing demands for resources in the face of more stringent environmental regulations and climatic variations and extremes.

  • Read the Full Chapter

Low-quality drainage emanating from the Sherridon mine in northern Manitoba


10. CLIMATE VARIABILITY AND CHANGE– GROUNDWATER RESOURCES

  • discusses potential impacts of climate change on groundwater resources: for example, nature of recharge, groundwater-surface water interaction, flow regimes, storage, and changes in demand.

  • reviews gaps in our understanding of groundwater regimes and points to needs such as aquifer resource inventories, longer-term data on water-levels and groundwater withdrawal, and predictive models.

  • Read the Full Chapter

Artesian Well


11. CLIMATE VARIABILITY AND CHANGE–RIVERS AND STREAMS

  • examines potential impacts of climate variability and climate change on water availability in rivers and streams, reinforcing the fundamental importance of systematic, long-term monitoring of hydrometeorological parameters in representative large and small watersheds in all regions of the country.

  • asserts the need for enhanced priority, sharpened focus, clearer leadership, and increased resources in addressing the potentially dramatic impacts of climate change on water availability in streams and rivers.

  • Read the Full Chapter

Yukon River


12. CLIMATE VARIABILITY AND CHANGE--LAKES AND RESERVOIRS

  • discusses impacts of climate change and increased consumptive use by humans on lakes and reservoirs, identifying probable responses of these water bodies to climate variability and climate change and pointing out that there are variations in the sensitivity of individual lakes. Climate scenarios derived from the present generation of climate models give grounds for concern that reductions in lake and reservoir levels may occur in the foreseeable future.

  • Read the Full Chapter

Lake scene


13. CLIMATE VARIABILITY AND CHANGE--WETLANDS

  • emphasizes wetlands as vital components of the hydrologic regime, modulating discharge regimes in rivers, re-charging groundwater aquifers, and acting as reservoirs in the cycle of production, release, and storage of important greenhouse gases.

  • reviews extent of Canada’s wetlands, emphasizing peatlands are by far the most common type of wetland, representing about 85% of the total; discusses future stability of wetlands in general and peatlands in particular in the face of a warming climate.

  • Read the Full Chapter

Prairie wetlands


14. CLIMATE VARIABILITY AND CHANGE--CRYOSPHERE

  • explains that phase changes and seasonal storage involving the cryosphere and cryospheric processes dominate the hydrology of most Canadian river basins, with melt from glaciers in the Western Cordillera making a significant contribution to summer stream flow in rivers and streams.

  • point outs that the cryospheric response to a warmer climate may include a decrease in solid precipitation, a reduction in the duration of snow and ice cover, gradual disappearance of mountain glaciers, increases in permafrost active layer depth, and melting of ground ice.

  • emphasizes that quantifying this response and its consequences presents a significant challenge since current climate models are limited in their ability to simulate key characteristics of cold region climates.

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Bow Glacier, Canadian Rockies, Alberta | Photo: Chris Hopkinson


15. INTEGRATED AND CUMULATIVE THREATS TO WATER AVAILABILITY

  • examines the challenges presented by integrated and cumulative threats to freshwater availability, and points to the need to manage these growing and somewhat intractable pressures.

  • presents the case of the Columbia Basin to illustrate how decisions made in the past contributed to creation of a so-called "meta-problem" extending well beyond the scope of a single agency or level of government

  • discusses mechanisms established as part of current attempts to address such meta-problems in the Prairie Provinces and the Great Lakes Basin (e.g., the Prairie Provinces Water Board and Alberta's South Saskatchewan River Basin Water Management Plan, the Great Lakes Charter).

  • Read the Full Chapter

City of Guelph outside water use program, in "Level 2 Red." | Photo: Charles Priddle