Creating the Story

Changes in global water supply hint at future conflicts and crises

By combining 14 years’ worth of satellite data, scientists have captured a startling portrait of the world’s water supply undergoing rapid transformation. The new analysis points to areas where there is increasing potential for conflict as a growing demand for water collides with the impacts of climate change. In Canada, the maps shows shifting water supplies that include wetter, more flood-prone regions in many areas of the country but a general drying out in the western sub-Arctic.

“This is an eye-opener,” said Roy Brouwer, an economist and executive director of the University of Waterloo’s Water Institute who was not involved in the analysis. “It raises awareness that things are changing and that in some areas something has to happen to counter and anticipate some of the catastrophes that may be waiting for us in the not-so-far future.”

from This is an eye opener
Ivan Semeniuk
The Globe and Mail, 2018.05.17

University of Waterloo Water Institute
A global leader in interdisciplinary water research and education

Canada: The future of our most critical resource

One commodity occupies a central place in the day-to-day lives of Canadians more than any other, and though it’s assumed to be in unfettered abundance, water is a resource that cannot be taken for granted.

It powers industry and is the lifeblood of healthy communities. But years of reduced federal oversight have left the government with major decisions about managing a resource we take for granted. What will Canada’s stewardship of water look like in the coming years?

1.2 billion
Number of people on Earth living in water-scarce regions

Number of national drinking-water guidelines published by Health Canada since 1968

Number of those guidelines that are consistently applied across all 13 provinces and territories

Canada’s share of the world’s renewable supply of fresh water

Level by which phosphorus in the St. Lawrence River exceeded federal guidelines (2010-2012)

Decrease (1970-2005) in the summer flow of the Athabasca River at Fort McMurray

Number of drinking-water advisories in effect last month in
120 indigenous communities across Canada

Number of years that Neskantaga First Nation, near the proposed Ring of Fire mining site in Northern Ontario, has been under a boil-water advisory

Estimated cost of meeting federal water standards for First Nations communities
in billions of dollars

Estimated increase in global water demand by 2050

Estimated share of waterborne contamination in Canada that involves non-municipal supply systems, largely in rural or remote areas

Number of national drinking-water standards that can be legally enforced.
Canada is the only G8 member with none.

from Reduced federal oversight leaves a critical resource exposed
by Mark Hume
Headwaters Series: The Globe and Mail, Nov. 29, 2015

Canada’s water is in crisis

Canada’s water is in crisis. This is partly because of federal neglect of water and water-related climate issues. We face increasingly damaging industrial, mining and agricultural water contamination; increases in flooding brought about by inappropriate land use and development in flood plains and headwaters; and ever-more-damaging extremes of flood and drought brought about by climate changes to which we have contributed by changing the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere.

In addition to the contamination threat, flood and drought crises along with related storm damage and forest fires are hammering every region of the country, as climate change demonstrates its destructive nature. Economic losses due to the prairie drought of 2000-04 exceeded 4 billion dollars and the Alberta-Saskatchewan-Manitoba floods of 2011-14 exceeded 11 billion dollars. The cost of one day of heavy rainfall in July, 2013, in Toronto was almost 1 billion dollars. The Prairies and B.C. have been hit by drought yet again in 2015 and this time it restricted both food and oil production, resulted in massive wildfires and even affected recreational fishing.

These issues are restricting economic growth in Canada, limiting agricultural and energy production and destroying infrastructure. Appalling water-quality and health conditions are common in First Nations and other downstream communities, putting them on an infamous ‘third world’ footing – unacceptable in a Group of Seven country. Our federal response to this national crisis shows little foresight, as water monitoring and science have been cut over several decades, and we stand out in the developed world for having neither a national flood-forecast system nor drinking-water standards.

Looking for Leadership on Water
John Pomeroy, Bob Sandford, and James Bruce
The Globe and Mail, Nov. 30, 2015

More from the Headwaters series

from The Globe examines the future of our most critical resource: water


Keystone Consumers

While a keystone species refers to a specific species that structures an ecosystem, I consider keystone consumers to be a specific group of humans that structures a market for a particular resource. Intense demand by a few individuals can bring flora and fauna to a brink.

Keystone Consumers
Jennifer Jacquet
Environmental Economics Researcher, University of British Columbia


Watermark, a feature documentary, brings together diverse stories from around the globe about our relationship with water: how we are drawn to it, what we learn from it, how we use it and the consequences of that use. This film shows water as a terraforming element, as well as the magnitude of our need and use. In Watermark, the viewer is immersed in a magnificent force of nature that we all too often take for granted, – until it is gone.

Transforming the way we think about water, and our relationship to it.
By Jennifer Baichwal, Nick de Pencier, and Edward Burtynsky


RBC Bluewater Project

Launched in 2007, the RBC Blue Water Project is a 10-year global charitable commitment of $50 million to help provide access to drinkable, swimmable, fishable water, now and for future generations.

RBC Bluewater Project
creating a culture of water stewardship

The BCIT Rivers Institute

The BCIT Rivers Institute is focused on the protection and restoration of rivers, streams, estuaries, lakes and wetlands in British Columbia. We accomplish our mission by teaching the theory and practice of aquatic ecosystem restoration to full and part time students and industry professionals enrolled in the Ecological Restoration Degree Program. We provide guidance and expertise for community based restoration initiatives, conducting applied research, and mentoring the next generation of ecological restoration professionals.

The Rivers Institute at BCIT
exploring the theory and the practice of aquatic ecosystem restoration