Exchanging Ideas on Climate
National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy
Exchanging ideas on Climate

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Changing Currents: Water Sustainability and the Future of Canada?s Natural Resource Sectors

The world?s supply of freshwater is limited and finite. While Canada is blessed with an abundance of freshwater, an expected increase in the development of the natural resource sectors begs the question of whether our country has enough to support economic growth while also maintaining the health of our ecosystems. We need to know whether we are in a position to sustainably manage our water resources for future generations and if we have the capability to deal with issues like an anticipated change in precipitation patterns caused by climate change.

Executive Summary

Access to clean, sustainable supplies of water is essential for the operation and growth of Canada?s major natural resource sectors ? energy, mining, forest, and agriculture. The health of our ecosystems is also dependent upon those same clean, sustainable water supplies, creating the potential for competing uses. Canada?s apparent water abundance masks a looming scarcity challenge for our important natural resource sectors and for certain regions of our country.

Changing Currents is the result of over a year of research and engagement involving some of the country?s leading experts on water management and policy, and collaboration with key industry representatives and associations.


Natural Resource Sectors

Electricity Sector

As the most significant gross water user in Canada, the electricity sector will face choices about Canada?s future electrical generation mix that will have implications for the sustainability of water resources. For fossil and nuclear power generation, water availability is a key consideration, both in terms of constraints at existing facilities and siting of new facilities. more...

Oil and Gas Sector

Even though the oil and gas sector uses relatively small volumes of water on a national scale, the anticipated strong growth for the sector will have important consequences for regional water resources. The sector?s impacts on water quality and ecosystems will continue to be a challenge for the sector to manage. more...

Agriculture Sector

Due to irrigation, the agriculture sector consumes more water than any other natural resource sector in Canada. Anticipated increases in demand for irrigation, meat, consumable crops, and biofuels, coupled with the pressures expected from the effects of climate change, will likely result in
increased water demand by the agriculture sector. more...

Mining Sector

The mining sector is not a significant user or consumer of water, however mining activities can impact water quality and ecosystems if not managed properly. Climate change impacts may have important consequences for the management and future design of mines across Canada, particularly in the North. more...

Forest Sector

Pulp and paper manufacturing industries have significantly improved their water use practices and account for approximately five per cent of gross water use in Canada, of which only two per cent is consumptive. Canada?s forests play a crucial role in influencing the quality and quantity of water resources; in light of climate change impacts, more research is needed to better understand forest-water resource interactions. more...