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National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy
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Water Sustainability and the Future of Canada?s Natural Resource Sectors

The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE) is undertaking a new research program on Water Sustainability and the Future of Canada?s Natural Resource Sectors.

The NRTEE will add value to the national water agenda by examining the relationship between water and the forestry, mining, agricultural, and energy sectors. The work will lead to a clearer, deeper understanding of the policy issues and choices needed for the long-term sustainability of our economy and water for ecosystems and society. This research is framed in the context of changes in supply, availability and distribution as a result of both climate change and rising demand.


  • To identify the critical issues and opportunities associated with the water, natural resource and climate change interrelationship; and,

  • To catalyze the design and implementation of new policies, approaches and mechanisms through which water can be managed to foster both ecosystem health and economic sustainability of the sectors.

Program Goals

  • To profile current and projected water consumption patterns and sustainability issues by Canada?s principal natural resources sectors and the role and value of water within these sectors;

  • To examine the impact of climate change on water availability, supply and distribution across Canada and its projected impacts on the sustainability of Canada?s principal natural resources sectors;

  • To recommend to natural resources sectors and governments the adoption of new and/or adapted policies and innovative mechanisms/approaches to ensure sustainable water management.


Throughout the two-year Program, the NRTEE will engage industry sector leaders, representatives of federal, provincial, territorial governments; academia; non-government organizations; Aboriginal groups and, civil society as part of the research process. The following provides a snapshot of the Program:

In February 2009, the NRTEE brought together 45 experts from across Canada to discuss key issues within the water and the natural resource sectors and climate change interface, to solicit advice on specific areas in which the Program could focus. Predominant issues discussed included:

  • Growth in demand and competition for water;
  • Failure to adequately account for ecosystem needs in water allocation systems;
  • Lack of knowledge and data on ground and surface water sources and the impacts of climate change on water resources;
  • Fragmentation in governance structures
  • The lack of value attached to water

The results were documented in the NRTEE?s Charting a Path report. Following the workshop, an Expert Advisory Committee (EAC) and a NRTEE Water Sub-Committee were created to contribute substantively to the Program by assessing research, providing input, and validating the key findings throughout the process.

The NRTEE is currently working with several leading Canadian industry associations to implement the next phase of the program.

Research Areas

The NRTEE program on Water Sustainability and Canada?s Natural Resource Sectors will examine the sustainability of the sectors from the perspective of the sectors? reliance and demand for water. Climate change is one driving force that will have impacts on water availability. Competing uses and allocation limitations (policy) may also come into play.

Five areas of research will form the basis of the program?s assessment of the environment-economy interrelationship from the perspective of strengths, gaps, challenges and opportunities:

1. Changes to Canada?s Water Availability
The NRTEE seeks to understand estimates of Canada?s current and future water resources availability and what trends and drivers are apparent behind these estimates. As a subset, to identify what impacts climate change will have on Canada?s water resources at a regional-scale and to what degree this inter-relationship is considered in regional policy adaptation measures.

2. Natural Resource Sector Economic Profiles
To identify current and projected domestic and international demand estimates for Canada?s natural resources and resource products.

3. Natural Resource Sector Water Profiles
To describe each sector?s relationship with water to enable an assessment of the risks, vulnerabilities and opportunities that have been identified by each sector in relation to freshwater, both currently and looking ahead.

4. Ecosystem Needs
To collate existing information on watershed/ecosystem needs as basis for understanding how water is, could and should be managed/allocated.

5. Governance
To assess the governance tools, processes and mechanisms that are currently in place with the view to analyzing their effectiveness from the perspective of water efficiency, management and conservation, and sustainability and competitiveness of the sectors


As part of the research agenda for Water Sustainability and the Future of Canada's Natural Resource Sectors the NRTEE is collaborating with Canada?s leading industry associations in each of the four sectors to launch a series of multi-stakeholder sector roundtable meetings.

Mining Sector
October 16

Nuclear Sector
October 28

Oil and Gas Sector
November 3

Agriculture Sector
November 12

Forestry Sector
November 24


September 10, 2009
Expert Advisory Committee Meeting

September 10, 2009 - Expert Advisory Committee Meeting

(view photos)

February 24, 2009
Charting a Path: Water and Canada's Natural Resource Sector - Expert Workshop


(Synthesis of Expert Workshop held February 24, 2009)
HTML version
PDF version

Expert Workshop - Discussion Paper

NRTEE @ work - Expert Workshop


Jill Baker
Senior Policy Advisor


Photo - Katherine Balapaky
Katherine Balpataky
Research Associate

Water and the Future of Canada's Natural Resource Sectors (by David McLaughlin, NRTEE President and CEO)
July-August 2009 Edition