Finish this sentence: Water is to Canada as . . . scotch is to Scotland? Wine is to France? Tea is to England? The narrative of Canada largely floats due to the importance of water both historically and in defining the country and its people. And yet it is a resource that most Canadians take for granted.
Being blessed with an abundance of fresh water has meant the majority of Canadians can use water without really thinking about using water. On average, a Canadian household uses 330 litres per person per day. That total, however, only accounts for 10 per cent of the total use within the country. Industry, including oil and gas extraction, thermal power generation, and agriculture make up the rest of the national usage. Canada is one of largest users of water in the world on a per capita basis, more than doubling the European average.
A Council of Canadian Academies expert panel is currently assessing what additional science is needed to better guide the sustainable management of water to address the needs of agriculture. This assessment has been requested by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Foods. The panel, chaired by Howard Wheater, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Water Security from the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, began its work in early 2011 and the final report is expected out before the end of 2012.
The Council of Canadian Academies, is a not for profit organization that provides independent, expert assessments of the science that is relevant to matters of significant public interest.
The current study will complement the Council’s 2009 assessment on groundwater, The Sustainable Management of Groundwater in Canada, which concluded that there is a significant lack of data on groundwater usage, including municipal, industrial, and agricultural allocations.
The expert panel cited a need for a cooperative and transparent approach that would unite municipal, provincial, and federal government agencies to develop science-based programs and policies that will ensure the sustainable management of the resource.
"A nationally adopted framework, involving provincial, territorial and federal cooperation, is needed to build the scientific knowledge and improve management and governance, in the face of increasing demands, climate change, and other threats," explains James Bruce, Chair of the Expert Panel on Groundwater. "Our governments are also being asked to report on the current state of quality and quantity of groundwater and to periodically update progress towards improvements to ensure sustainability of this vital resource."
The 2009 report has been welcomed in a variety of spheres. The Auditor General of British Columbia noted that the Council’s report founded the basis of its audit of the province’s groundwater system.
The assessment has also been brought into university classrooms. The assessment, said David Rudolph, Professor at the University of Waterloo, “has proven to be an invaluable educational tool for our graduate students studying all aspects of groundwater science and management.”
For further information on the Council’s current assessment regarding the Sustainable Management of Water in the Agricultural Landscapes of Canada, or on The Sustainable Management of Groundwater in Canada visit www.scienceadvice.ca.