Canadian Consulting Engineer

Prairies drier than Australia, says StatsCan water use study

September 27, 2010
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

A study by Statistics Canada has found that renewable freshwater supplies right across southern Canada have dr...

A study by Statistics Canada has found that renewable freshwater supplies right across southern Canada have dropped 8.5% over the 34 year period ending in 2004. Renewable fresh water is the water that comes from precipitation and melted ice, flowing over and underground to rivers and lakes.
Canada’s total annual renewable freshwater supply is about 3,470 cubic kilometres, roughly equivalent to the volume of Lake Huron. We evidently are still blessed with generous amounts: in 2005, Canadians withdrew approximately 1.2% of that amount, or 42 cubic kilometres.
The study found that more than 90% of that water use was for economic activities (industrial, agricultural, etc.), and the remaining was used domestically.
The thermal-electric power sector accounted for 66.2% of the total water used, but the bulk of it was returned to the environment within a short period.
Manufacturing used 13.6 per cent of the water, and the residential sector used 9% and the rest was used by agriculture, commercial and institutional users, water treatment, mining, and oil and gas extraction.
The area that had the lowest water yield and highest variability was the Prairie provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. These drainage regions received an average annual yield of fresh water equivalent to 12% of the yield of the Great Lakes region.
“Compared internationally, the renewable freshwater per unit area of the Prairies is less than that for either Australia or South Africa,” said Statistics Canada.” The water yield for the Prairies fell 0.5 cubic kilometres a year from 1971 to 2004.
Of all the water withdrawn in 2005, 63% was used for internal domestic demand for goods and services, and the remaining 37% was used to produce goods for export.
The water treatment and distribution systems of Canada used only 2.3% of the water supply. The study found that drinking water plants in Canada supply about 28 million people in 2005. About 88% of the water processed was from surface water, while 12% was from groundwater.
To see the StatsCan report, click here.


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