By the numbers: Water in Canada
Posted by Alexandra Pope
on Tuesday, March 22, 2016
World Water Day fact: Canada is home to seven per cent of the world's renewable freshwater. (Photo: Tomislav Stefanac/CanGeo Photo Club
March 22nd is World Water Day, a United Nations-led initiative to provoke conversation and action on water issues around the globe.
The theme for 2016 is "Water and Jobs." In a video statement officially recognizing the day, Guy Rider, chair of UN-Water, said most people are aware that access to clean water underpins all efforts to achieve sustainable development. What is not so clear, Rider said, is that water is also fundamental to the creation of quality jobs.
"Today, almost half of the world's workers — 1.5 billion — work in water-related sectors, and nearly all jobs depend on water and those that ensure its safe delivery," he said.
In honour of World Water Day, here are eight numbers and figures that capture Canadian water usage and its importance to our economy.
Percentage of the world's total renewable freshwater found in Canada's lakes and rivers
Canada is a water-rich country, but natural fluctuations in seasonal rain and snowfall can cause shortages in some years and flooding in others.
A police car is partially submerged during 2013's record flooding in Calgary, Alta. (Photo: Darcy Gloer/CanGeo Photo Club)
Percentage of Canada's freshwater that drains to the north
Believe it or not, most of Canada's freshwater drains to the north, away from the 85 per cent of the population that lives within 300 kilometres of the southern border. This makes harnessing and managing our water resources a significant challenge, both nationally and within individual provinces and territories.
Number of international and bi-lateral environmental agreements in which Canada participates (as of 2013)
Canada is a signatory to a number of agreements on the use and conservation of water resources, including the Ramsar Convention on wetlands, the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and a number of treaties with the United States concerning the health of cross-border river systems.
Total cubic metres of water withdrawn from Canada's lakes, rivers and groundwater in 2009
Most of that water was withdrawn for thermal power generation, including nuclear and coal. Municipalities were the second-biggest withdrawers of water in 2009, followed by the manufacturing, agriculture, mining and oil and gas sectors.
Bruce Nuclear Generating Station near Kincardine, Ont. Thermal power generation is the biggest consumer of water in Canada. (Photo: Chuck Szmurlo/Wikimedia Commons)
Per cent of the total water the agriculture sector uses that does not return back to its original source
Of the total cubic metres of water withdrawn by the agriculture sector in 2009, approximately 3.4 billion cubic metres were consumed, or not returned to their original source. The agricultural sector is the biggest consumer of water in Canada. Some crops are thirstier than others; it takes more than 900 litres of water to produce enough wheat for a 20-ounce loaf of bread and almost 100 litres of water to produce a single 12-ounce potato.
Meat production requires even more water; almost 7,000 litres are required to produce a pound of beef.
Beef has the highest "water footprint" of any farmed food. (Photo: Ryan Thompson/U.S. Department of Agriculture)
Average litres of water each Canadian uses every day
According to 2011 data, households with water meters used less water than households in municipalities that charge a flat rate for water, showing that Canadians are more likely to conserve water when its use affects their bottom line.
Number of drinking water advisories in effect in First Nations communities across Canada (excluding British Columbia) as of January 31st, 2016
The advisories affect 86 different First Nations communities across Canada south of the 60th parallel and range from boil water orders to "Do Not Use" advisories. Many communities have had advisories in place for a decade or more.
Number of years the Neskantaga First Nation in northern Ontario has been under a Boil Water Advisory
The community's water treatment plant opened in 1993 and almost immediately began experiencing problems. A Boil Water Advisory was issued in February 1995 and has been in place ever since.
A reverse osmosis plant on the edge of town supplies purified drinking water, but residents must pick it up and transport it themselves, posing problems for the elderly and young families. The federal government has committed funding for a new water treatment facility in Neskantaga in the 2016-17 budget.