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magazine / mj00

May/June 2000 issue

Feature: Water works  |   Water use  |   How Safe
Water Treaties  |   Thirsty World  |   Big Business
Canadian water use - A wretched excess?

Some sobering facts about Canadian water use:

  • Residential indoor water use in Canada is as follows: toilet, 30%; bathing and showering, 35%; laundry, 20%; drinking and cooking, 10%; cleaning, 5%.
  • Canadians consumed an estimated 643 million litres of bottled water in 1997.
  • On average, 14% of municipal piped water is lost in pipeline leaks — up to 30% in some communities.
  • According to Health Canada, an average Canadian adult drinks about 1.5 litres of water each day, including the water in juice, coffee and tea.
  • About 60% of Canada’s water flows northward, yet 90% of the population lives within 300 kilometres of the Canada-U.S. border.
  • "11% of all surface and groundwater withdrawn in Canada is used for municipal purposes. Urban Canadians on average use almost twice as much water per capita as urban residents in most other industrialized countries except the United States." (Environment Canada)
  • "In 1994, about 17% of municipalities with water systems reported problems with water availability. Some reasons cited included: drought (seasonal shortages), insufficient storage capacity, inadequate distribution systems." (Environment Canada)
  • In 1994, Canadian households paying for water by volume used 263 litres per person per day compared to the 450 litres per person per day used in households paying a flat rate — a 39% savings.
  • "Canadian households use twice as much water as European ones and pay less than half as much for it." (Environment Canada)
  • Canada diverts more water between drainage basins than any other country — about 400 cubic metres per second or the equivalent flow of a river the size of the Ottawa River. Most water in Canada is diverted to concentrate flows for hydroelectric power, unlike other counties, which divert water from wet to dry areas, from uninhabited areas to those where many people live.
  • Monthly water bills in Canada range between $15 and $80, the lowest being in areas of Quebec, Newfoundland and British Columbia, and the highest in the Prairies and the North. The average household uses about 26,000 litres each month, an average of 326 litres per person per day. More water is consumed in the North — about 500 litres per day per person in the Northwest Territories and about 1,000 in the Yukon. This may be due to the fact that in the North water often has to be kept running to prevent pipes from freezing.
  • About 38,5000 new water wells are drilled each year in Canada.
  • Between 1972 and 1991, Canada’s water withdrawal increased from 24 billion cubic metres/year to over 45 billion cubic metres/year — a rise of over 80%. In the same period, population increased only 3%.


1991 1994
28% of households surveyed by Statistics Canada reported using low-flow showerheads * 42% of households used low-flow showerheads*
10% of households used low-flow toilets * 15% of households used low-flow toilets *
Between 1991 and 1994, daily municipal water use on a per person basis fell by an estimated 3.3% or 22 litres per person per day.

* According to Environment Canada, low-flow showerheads can use up to half the amount of water, and low-flow toilets up to one third less water

So what can you do?

  • On average, you use less water if you have a bath instead of a shower. If you soak in a partially-filled bathtub, you use less water than if you took a short shower. Eleven to 20 litres of water are used each minute in the shower. (Health Canada)
  • Health Canada suggests checking for leaky faucets and pipes — even the smallest drip can waste as much as 75 litres of water each day.
  • A five-minute shower with a standard shower head uses 100 litres of water, while a five-minute shower with a low-flow shower head uses 35 litres of water.
  • Instead of running the tap to get cold water, keep a bottle of drinking water in the refrigerator. It will save you time and conserve the water.


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