Water Use in Canada

Water Use in Canada

Water’s importance:

Canada is home to approx. 70% of the world’s freshwater supply.  Water is the source of life on earth. Without it, no living creature can survive. However, the importance of water is not restricted to drinking alone. Indeed, water is essential for agriculture, industry and the economy to function. With the increase in human population and industrial development in the 20th century, water demand increased over sixfold and continues to rise exponentially, which adds increasing stress on existing water resources and renders water a precious commodity in the future.

How is water used in Canada?

Canada has vast freshwater resources  yet Canadians are one of the largest consumers of water per capita in the world. Every year Canada withdraws around 44.7 billion cubic meter of freshwater, 64% of which are used for thermal power generation. Manufacturing and mining consume 15%, agriculture 9%, while all non- industrial use (municipal, rural and residential) use only 12%.

Almost 2 out of every 3 litres of freshwater withdrawn in Canada are used for industries and power generation. However, industrial water use is highly efficient and water is usually recycled. On the other hand, agriculture is the least efficient user of water, returning only 30% of consumed water back to its source.

Water use in industry:

Water is an important coolant and fluid for a variety of industries. For example, it takes about 148,000 litres to manufacture a new vehicle with new tires. The steel industry withdraws a lot of water too. For example, manufacturing one tonne of steel consumes 215,000 litres of water. This is enough water to supply the needs of a typical Canadian family for five months!

Pulp and paper industry is another major industrial consumer of water. Producing one tonne of paper requires 324,000 litres of water. Even producing one litre of gasoline requires 10 litres of water.

Agriculture and food:

Water constitutes a large portion of fruits and vegetable and so irrigation consumes large quantities of water. For example, it takes about 11 litres of water to grow one- cup serving of lettuce. In order to grow one medium- sized orange, you would need enough water to fill 28 standard-sized juice cartons.

One serving of almonds (28 grams) requires about 300 litres of water to grow since almond trees require several years of watering before reaching full production. Similarly, it takes about 95 litres of water to grow half-cup serving of rice and 1,000 litres of water to grow only one kilogram of potatoes.

Future challenges:

Despite the abundance of water supplies in Canada we face growing challenges especially in the face of global climate change. It therefore becomes imperative to improve water management and conservation strategies to meet the growing water demands in the future.