In school we were shown a map of Canada that highlighted all of our country’s lakes and rivers. There was a sense of awe and pride seeing that map. Our lakes are some of the largest in the world and we have most lake covered area than any other country. It’s easy to believe that we live in a country of water abundance because in a sense we do. What people fail to realize is that only 6.5% of the water in Canada is renewable and 60% of this renewable water flows North to the Arctic Circle. This leaves only approximately 2.6% of our renewable water accessible to the more populated South of Canada and already there is a discrepancy between water availability and water demands in Canada.
|Map from Environment Canada|
Why are Canadians using so much water?
Canadians have bought into the myth of water abundance so they take water for granted. Compared to other countries we pay very little to have water delivered to our homes and we use a lot of it. Canadians rank second (after the US) as the highest per capita water consumers in the developed world. The average household in Canada uses about 335 litres (88 gallons) a day! A person only needs 60-80 litres a day to prepare meals and keep clean. So yes, Canadians are using too much water at home but Canadian households are not the main water consumers.
Agriculture is the number one water consumer in Canada. In the Okanagan Valley (that little orange strip in the South of British Columbia – see map) agriculture accounts for 70% of the developed land and it is the main user of the water basin. Industries such as thermal power, mining and manufacturing also use a great deal of water. The amount of water these sectors consume dwarfs the amount Canadian households use, even if we happen to be water gluttons.
What should we do? Conserving water at home.
If we’re tempted to point our finger at agribusiness for hogging all the water, we should start by asking ourselves some simple questions about our own household water use. Where does our water come from? Which areas of the home use the most water? Where our water go after being used? Many Canadians don’t know where our water comes from and how much we use. You can calculate your water usage by using the One Minute Water Calculator or keeping a water log. Households use the most water for bathing, flushing the toilet and doing laundry.
I encourage you to find answers for these questions. In the next few weeks I will offer strategies for conserving water at home and include some giveaways to get you going. For now I would love to hear if this information is new to you or if you are already taking steps to conserve water in your home.
Environment Canada: Wise Water Use
Flow: Forum For Leadership on Water
Program on Water Governance: Fact Sheet: Canada’s Myth of Water Abundance, Fact Sheet: Water Use & Consumption in Canada
Waterscape: Unraveling the Myth of Abundance Program 2008