This page has been archived on the Web

Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please contact us to request a format other than those available.

Using water wisely

Target 4.1: Water resource management and use – Promote the conservation and wise use of water to affect a 30% reduction or increased efficiency in water use in various sectors by 2025 (based on 2009 water use levels).

In 2009, approximately 38 billion (38,000 million) cubic metres of water were withdrawn each year from Canada's lakes, rivers and groundwater sources by major sectors. Over 90% of this water was returned to its lake or river of origin.

The major sectors include thermal-power-generation, municipal, manufacturing, agriculture, mining, and oil and gas.

Together with the provinces, the government develops standards, tools, assessments, and mapping of aquifers and groundwater. The government conducts groundwater mapping and assessment activities on key aquifers to better understand the extent of groundwater systems, their dynamics and vulnerability. It also collaborates with its provincial partners to harmonize data and approaches in different jurisdictions. This information is disseminated through a collaborative, national inventory used by other levels and departments of government, planners and land-use professionals for decision-making. Between 2006 and 2009, the number of peer-reviewed scientific and technical papers produced increased by 8%. The government's comprehensive groundwater information resource and expertise contributes to sustainable land use and groundwater management. This, in turn, supports responsible development of Canada's natural resources.

The Water Survey of Canada is the national agency responsible for the collection, interpretation and dissemination of standardized water resource data and information in Canada. The agency has played a major role in the activities of numerous international and interprovincial boards and commissions involved in the management of Canada's water resources. Its water resource monitoring supports interjurisdictional agreements and treaties. Specifically, its services include the measurement, acquisition, processing, transformation and management of environmental data. The Water Survey of Canada provides real-time, current year and historical information for a network of over 2,500 sites in Canada and maintains a database containing historic data for some 5,500 non-active sites in the country.

Through the Western Diversification Program, the government invested $1 million in 2010 to support the development of new technologies to separate petroleum hydrocarbons and waste products from oil sands and water used in oil sands processing. The results could significantly reduce the quantity of energy and water needed to recover oil from oil sands, and to clean contaminated soils and water.

For additional information on the implementation strategies that support this target, please consult the following websites: Environment Canada, Natural Resources Canada, and Western Economic Diversification Canada].

Progress towards Target 4.1: Water use by major sectors from water use surveys

In 2009, approximately 38 billion (38,000 million) cubic metres of water were withdrawn each year from Canada's lakes, rivers and groundwater sources by major sectors. Over 90% of this water was returned to its lake or river of origin. Of the water withdrawn, almost 3.4 billion cubic metres were consumed, or not returned to its lake or river of origin.

The major sectors withdrawing water include thermal power generation, municipal, manufacturing, agriculture, mining, and oil and gas. Figure 3.17 illustrates water withdrawal by sector between 2004 and 2009. Note: The proportions consumed and returned are not available for the oil and gas sector.

Figure 3.17: Water withdrawal by sector in Canada, 2004 to 2009

Water withdrawal by sector in Canada, 2004 to 2009

Long description

The graph shows the volume of water withdrawn by the thermal power generation, municipal, manufacturing, agriculture, mining, and oil and gas sectors in Canada for three years within the period of 2004 to 2009. Of the water withdrawn by each sector (except for the oil and gas sector for which data were not available), the volume of water returned to the environment is displayed, along with the volume that is consumed or that is not returned to its original source.

The thermal-power-generation industry (including nuclear and coal-fueled electricity generating stations) withdrew the most water of any sector between 2005 and 2009. Most is eventually discharged back to the source. The quantity of water not directly returned to the source is what is consumed by Canada's thermal power generation industry, which represents approximately 2% of the freshwater it takes from the environment.

The agricultural sector withdrew close to 2.0 billion cubic metres of water to irrigate crops and water livestock. In producing food for Canadians, the agriculture sector consumes approximately 84% of the water it withdraws. The agriculture sectors in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan are the largest consumers of water, since irrigation systems are used to compensate for naturally low water levels in these regions, and very little water used for irrigation is returned directly to its source.

For the most up-to-date information on this indicator, please visit CESI.


Date modified: