Renewable water in Southern Canada declining each year

You could fill more than a million Olympic-sized swimming pools every year with all the renewable water that dries up across Southern Canada, a new report says.

OTTAWA — You could fill more than a million Olympic-sized swimming pools every year with all the renewable water that dries up across Southern Canada, a new report says.

A Statistics Canada study released Monday says water yield has fallen by an average of 3.5 cubic kilometres a year over the last three decades. The agency equates the annual loss to 1.4 million Olympic-sized swimming pools. That’s almost as much water as Canadians drank and used in toilets, showers and to water their lawns during the entire year of 2005. This represents an overall loss of 8.5 per cent of the water yield in the southern part of the country between 1971 and 2004.

“It’s always hard to grasp these volumes of water,” said Heather Dewar, managing editor of the agency’s study.

“And the water’s not lost; it’s really in a state of flux. That water is somewhere else. It is striking that there is a downward trend over that time period, though.”

The study doesn’t offer any explanations for why Canada’s renewable water is drying up. Dewar says the work will help the government determine if and to what degree climate change has played a role.

But a prominent author and water activist says climate change is just part of the problem.

Maude Barlow, head of the Council of Canadians and the United Nations’ senior adviser on water issues, says Canadians take water for granted.

“We’ve always thought we’re immune from that. ’Oh, that’s somewhere in Africa, that’s somewhere in India,”’ she said.

“No, it’s right here. Obviously it’s not the kind of crisis it is in other places, but we have a declining water stock in this country.”

Canada’s annual freshwater supply is about 3,470 cubic kilometres — roughly the volume of Lake Huron. Freshwater comes from rain and melted ice that eventually reaches rivers and lakes.

Some parts of Canada have more freshwater than others. The Pacific Coastal and Newfoundland and Labrador drainage regions have the most water. But the study says the Prairies are even more parched than two drought-stricken countries.

“Compared internationally, the renewable freshwater per unit area of the Prairies is less than that for either Australia or South Africa,” it says.

The amount of renewable water also varies throughout the year. In most parts of the country there’s more water in the spring than summer. The study notes summer is when people use the most water, particularly in July and August.

Bureaucrats have been raising red flags for years over how little Ottawa knows about the country’s freshwater supply. The government has even formed a working group of high-ranking civil servants from several departments to study water issues.

Last year, the group wrote a report warning a lack of information about water is putting the health of Canadians and the economy at risk.

Although Canada has a fifth of the world’s supply of fresh water, only seven per cent of it is renewable. That’s less renewable water than Brazil and Russia, and about the same as the United States.

There could be much more freshwater underground. However, Canada is still about two decades away from mapping a number of key aquifers.

Statistics Canada defines “Southern Canada” as a jagged and elongated U-shaped line that starts in the middle of British Columbia, dips across northern Ontario and rises again from Quebec City to the northwestern tip of Newfoundland.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

AstraZeneca vaccine is ready to be used at a homeless shelter in Romford, east London, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Frank Augstein
Most unvaccinated Canadians uncomfortable with AstraZeneca vaccine: survey

Just 41 per cent of Canadians who aren’t vaccinated, but intend to… Continue reading

Advocate file photo
Red Deer County approves winery

Winery proposed for rural property northwest of Innisfail

Sharis Carr, a nurse at the Aaron E. Henry Community Health Service Center in Clarksdale, Miss., holds a vial of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine that was administered to seniors, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. A second COVID-19 vaccine is being investigated for possible links to blood clots, though the syndrome appears to be extremely rare. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Rogelio V. Solis
Canada receives report of blood clot linked to AstraZeneca

OTTAWA — A Quebec woman is the first in Canada to develop… Continue reading

Premier Jason Kenney struck back at unruly protesters who chanted ‘lock her up’ in relation to Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw on Monday. (Photo by Government of Alberta)
Alberta Premier calls for ‘unhinged conspiracy theorists’ to stop threatening the chief medical officer

Spreading misinformation, making threats is ‘beyond the pale,’ said Kenney

An internal investigation by AHS revealed 3,224 patients had their electronic health records accessed improperly by two clerical employees in the diagnostic imaging department at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Employees access 3K patients’ records in privacy breach at Red Deer hospital

3,224 patients had their electronic health records accessed improperly

A vial of the vaccine by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a company owned by Johnson & Johnson. Federal health officials in the U.S. said early Tuesday they were urging a pause in the use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine after reports of six serious blood clots, and officials in Washington state and around the country quickly complied. (Aristide Economopoulos/NJ Advance Media)
How J&J and AstraZeneca differ from the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna

Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine has hit a stumbling block in… Continue reading

An emergency response worker carries an air monitoring device at the site of a crude oil spill at a Trans Mountain Pipeline pump station in Abbotsford, on Sunday, June 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Failed fitting caused 190,000-litre spill at Trans Mountain site in B.C.: TSB

VANCOUVER — A Transportation Safety Board report says the failure of a… Continue reading

Indigenous leaders, experts urge Ottawa to quickly pass UNDRIP bill before election

OTTAWA — Indigenous leaders and legal experts are pushing federal lawmakers to… Continue reading

Visitors to a roadside memorial pay their respects in Portapique, N.S., on Friday, April 24, 2020. The Canadian Red Cross confirmed today it has collected $6.2 million in donations to help the families in rural Nova Scotia affected by the mass shooting last spring that claimed 22 lives. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Red Cross collects $6.2 million for families affected by Nova Scotia mass shooting

HALIFAX — Canadians and people from around the world donated $6.2 million… Continue reading

Hindu devotees wearing face masks as a precautionary measure against the coronavirus stand in a queue to offer prayers inside a temple dedicated to goddess Kali in Jammu, India, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. New infections have surged in the past month and India has now reported over 13.6 million cases — pushing its toll past Brazil, and making it second only to the United States. In the past 24 hours, over 160,000 new infections have been detected and experts fear that the worst is yet to come. (AP Photo/Channi Anand)
Johnson & Johnson delays shot rollout in Europe

BERLIN — Johnson & Johnson says it is delaying the rollout of… Continue reading

Restaurant workers and restaurant delivery workers wait in line to sign up for Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine at a mobile vaccine site, Wednesday, April 7, 2021, in the Sunset Park neighborhood of New York. The mobile vaccination effort includes two buses equipped with four to six vaccinators each, delivering the COVID-19 vaccine directly to communities most in need. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
US recommends ‘pause’ for J&J vaccine over clot reports

WASHINGTON — The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in using the single-dose… Continue reading

FILE-Team Canada’s Meaghan Mikkelson fights for control of the puck with U.S.A.’s Hayley Scamurra during third period of Women’s Rivalry Series hockey action in Vancouver, Wednesday, February 5, 2020. Gina Kingsbury, Hockey Canada’s director of women’s national teams, hopes a Rivalry Series against the United States can happen this winter.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michael Dwyer
Canadian women’s hockey team to open selection camp in Nova Scotia

Six goaltenders, 15 defenders and 26 forwards will vie for spots on Canada’s 23-player roster

FILE - Rhian Wilkinson, left, and Melissa Tancredi of Canada’s women’s soccer team attend a news conference in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 13, 2017 to announce their retirement from the team. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Former Canadian international Rhian Wilkinson now part of England coaching setup

Wilkinson left Canada Soccer in January to join interim England head coach Hege Riise as an assistant

Most Read