Climate Change Threatens Canada's Water: Report

national and regional water conservation guidelines are required to
address the detrimental impact climate change is having on Canada’s
water system, according to Simon Fraser University’s href=”” target=”_blank”>Adaptation to
Climate Change Team (ACT).

“The days when Canadians take an endless abundance of fresh water
for granted are numbered,” warns Bob Sandford, lead author of ACT’s
new report Climate Change Adaptation and Water Governance.

“Increasing average temperatures,
climate change impacts on weather patterns and extensive changes in
land use are seriously affecting the way water moves through the
hydrological cycle in many parts of Canada, which is seriously
impacting water quantity and quality.”
Canada doesn’t become a water conservation society, water security
in many parts of this country will be compromised.”

The report calls for a dramatic reform of water governance
structures in Canada by all levels of government to meet the new
challenges posed by a changing climate, and sets out 12 broad-based
recommendations to help protect Canada’s fragile water

Climate change is causing increased weather instability, leading
to more frequent, deeper and persistent droughts, as well as more
intense rainfall and flooding across Canada. This results in
greater property damage, higher insurance costs and a greater
infrastructure maintenance and replacement deficit

Today, half of every dollar paid out by insurance companies is for
water damage related to extreme weather events, which will continue
to increase unless government and planners undertake the deep
reforms necessary to manage water differently.

The growing economic impacts of climate change on Canada were
confirmed by a national study released last week by the National
Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE).

According to NRTEE, the costs of climate change could range from
$5 billion per year in 2020 to between $21 billion and $43 billion
per year in 2050, depending on global greenhouse gas emissions and
domestic economic and population growth.

“Canada is coping with climate change, not adapting,” says
Sandford. “Our primary response to climate change has been focussed
on reducing emissions. While such action is critical, it is
inadequate by itself. 

Current and projected atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse
gases will result in continued climate change regardless of our
success in reducing emissions. As well as cutting emissions,
Canadians need to adapt to the current and anticipated effects of
climate change, which requires more effective management of our
precious water resources.”

Water policy in many parts of Canada has not kept pace with
changing political, economic and climatic conditions. The last
federal water policy was tabled in Parliament over two decades ago
and has never been fully implemented. And today, less than 20
percent of Canada’s groundwater sources have been mapped.

One of the key challenges limiting effective water resource management
in Canada is jurisdictional fragmentation, as legislative power
over freshwater is divided between the federal government and the
provinces, producing a complex regulatory web that spans First
Nations, municipal, regional, provincial and federal orders of

This has resulted in serious policy and information gaps
contributing to a lack of legally enforceable water quality
standards and contributing to the decline of surface and
groundwater monitoring, as well as water research in Canada.

The complexity, fragmentation and lack of coordination of water
policies in Canada creates policies that are often inconsistent
with respect to drinking water quality standards, ecosystem
protection, allocation rights and climate change adaptation,
concludes the Climate Change Adaptation and Water Governance

“The reform of water governance structures in Canada is essential
if we want to successfully manage and protect our water supplies
and minimize climate-related impacts on our environment, our
economy and our society,” says Sandford.

Climate Change Adaptation and Water Governance

  • The federal, provincial and municipal governments establish
    national and regional water conservation guidelines that values
    water appropriately and promotes its wise use and conservation

  • Governments at all levels formally allocate water to meet
    nature’s needs and ensure its use is consistent with sustaining
    resilient and functioning ecological systems

  • Strengthen and harmonize flood protection strategies

  • Government at all levels should formally support the design and
    sustainability of water supply and waste disposal infrastructure
    based on ecological principles and adaptation to a changing
    climate, with special attention to First Nations communities

  • National and regional water monitoring needs to be improved to
    provide reliable, accessible, up-to-date information needed to
    effectively manage water in a changing climate

  • The role of education in public understanding of the importance
    of water to our way of life in Canada should be recognized and
    formally supported

  • Water must be recognized as a human right integral to security
    and health

  • A collaborative water governance model should be supported to
    holistically managing watersheds

  • Governments at all levels must recognize the importance of
    groundwater, understand and value its role in creating a
    sustainable future for Canada

  • Develop coordinated long-term national strategies for
    sustainably managing water in the face of climate change

  • Canada, in association with provincial, territorial and
    Aboriginal governments, should fully articulate and actively
    promote a new Canadian water ethic

  • Create a non-statutory national water commission to advance
    policy reform and to champion the new Canadian water ethic

For the full report, please go to href=”” target=”_blank”>

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