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At a glance

Overall, the national freshwater quality indicator has remained stable between 2003 and 2009.

Forty-one percent (41%) of monitoring stations rated water quality as either good or excellent for the 2007–2009 period.


The Great Lakes Areas of Concern are being restored.

Three Canadian Areas of Concern in the Great Lakes are fully restored (Collingwood Harbour, Severn Sound, Wheatley Harbour) and two more areas are in recovery (Spanish Harbour and Jackfish Bay).

Performance to date

  • Significant investments have been made to protect and restore key water bodies including the Great Lakes, Lake Winnipeg and Lake Simcoe, and progress in reducing nutrient loads is being made in these areas.
  • In 2011, the Government of Canada signed a 15-year agreement with the Government of Quebec to continue their collaboration to protect and restore the health of the St. Lawrence River ecosystem.
  • Through amendments to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement in 2012, the governments of Canada and the United States committed to a shared vision of a healthy and prosperous Great Lakes region in which the waters of the Great Lakes, through their sound management, use and enjoyment, provide benefits to present and future generations.
  • In 2012, the governments of Canada and Alberta announced the Joint Canada-Alberta Implementation Plan for Oil Sands Monitoring, a scientifically rigorous, comprehensive, integrated and transparent environmental monitoring program for the oil sands region.
  • The Government of Canada put in place Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations to phase out the release of untreated and undertreated sewage into waterways. This action addresses the largest point-source of pollution.
  • There has been a significant reduction in oil discharges from marine vessels as a result of the National Aerial Surveillance Program covering all waters under Canadian jurisdiction.
  • Between 2006 and 2013, the quality of water management in First Nations communities has improved as a result of significant investments in water and wastewater facility management.
  • Since 2005, significant progress has been made in treating contaminated water and soil, and the removal of hazardous wastes at 1,400 sites across Canada.

Remaining challenges

  • Ecosystems in areas such as Lake Erie, Lake Winnipeg and the St. Lawrence River remain under stress from excess nutrients and other effects of human activity.
  • Further efforts and improvements are required to monitor drinking water quality in First Nations communities.
  • Eighteen percent (18%) of Canadians still rely on primary wastewater treatment alone.

Canada has relatively abundant access to fresh water.

Between 2001 and 2010, Canada's rivers typically had normal water quantity conditions.


The thermal-power-generation industry withdrew the most water annually between 2004 and 2009.

However, most of this water is reused, and most is eventually discharged back to the source.

Performance to date

  • Investment in water technologies in western Canada has the potential to significantly reduce the quantity of energy and water required to recover oil from the oil sands, and is helping to grow the western Canadian economy.
  • Science and information is provided to support sustainable management of water resources, both groundwater and surface water.

Remaining challenges

  • Water use in Canada remains high -- in 2009, the average Canadian used 274 litres of water per day.
  • Urban growth, agriculture, expanding industrial activity and changing weather patterns place increasing pressure on water supply in some areas of Canada.

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