In this Section:
- Thermal Power Generation
- Industrial Use
- Municipal Use
- What is a Fair Price?
- Agricultural Use
Withdrawal use is directly measurable as quantities of intake, discharge, and consumption. Water intake is the amount withdrawn from the source for a particular activity over a specific period of time. This measure is important because it represents the demand imposed by that particular use on the water source at a given location. Usually, however, most of the water taken out is returned at or near the source. This is called water discharge.
Water consumption is the difference between water intake and water discharge. Consumption removes water from a river system and makes it unavailable for further use downstream. The irrigation of crops is by far the largest consumptive use, followed by evaporation in large open water reservoirs and cooling ponds. However, because evaporation is difficult to measure, it is seldom recognized as water consumption.
In the global hydrologic cycle, water is never actually lost. For example, the water evaporated from industrial cooling towers or an irrigated field simply returns to the atmosphere, later to fall again as precipitation somewhere else on earth.
We determine how efficiently we use water in a particular process or economic sector with the help of two additional measurements: gross water use and the amount of water that is recirculated. Gross water use represents the total amount of water used during a process. This would normally be equal to the water intake, except that more and more users (especially industries) reuse the same water one or more times. In such cases, the gross water use could be equal to several times the water intake. The difference between gross water use and water intake is the amount recirculated, which can be expressed as a recycling rate. This is the number of times that the water is recirculated and indicates how efficient a particular water use is.
In 2006, five main withdrawal uses are estimated to have accounted for a gross water use in Canada of 60 527 million cubic metres (MCM), made up of intake (50 914 MCM in industrial uses and recirculation (9 622 MCM in industrial uses). About 30% of the intake was consumed (mostly industrial uses and agriculture), while the rest was discharged back to receiving waters.
* Includes rural domestic use (1.5%)
All industrial values are from 2005 (Statistics Canada Industrial Water Survey, 2005), Municipal values from 2006 (Environment Canada's 2006 Municipal Water and Wastewater Survey) and Agricultural values from 2001 (Statistics Canada Estimation of Water Use in Canadian Agriculture in 2001).
The following figure illustrates the importance of the main water uses in Canada.
* Municipal data exclude water supplied to industry.
** Municipal data include estimates for rural residential water use.
*** Negative mining consumption value results from incomplete reporting of "mine water" intake, or overall annual balance fluctuations in tailing ponds. An accurate mining consumption value is thus not available.
Notes: Intake plus Recirculation equals Gross Use. Intake minus Discharge equals Consumption (except in the municipal sector, where consumption has been estimated at 510 or 10 percent of intake (see Note 3). Municipal consumption is an uncertain figure, but has been estimated. However, the difference between intake and discharge is not consumption, but non-metered sewage. If this non-metered sewage (including rainfall) was known, then the municipalities would be "net producers" of water, not consumers. Data for some sectors have been extrapolated and rounded.
Source: Environment Canada water use surveys and studies.
The diagram shows how:
- We use water in many different ways and quantities.
- Some uses require much more water than others. For example, electrical power generation (excluding hydroelectric power, which is an instream use) withdraws almost four times as much water as all manufacturing uses, and 60% more than the four other uses combined.
- Some uses are more efficient than others. The manufacturing sector, for example, has a gross use of almost twice the water intake, thanks to recirculation. The mining industry actually reuses its water more than twice, on average.
- Some uses consume more water than others. Agricultural uses, for example, return very little of the intake water to its source. In southern Alberta and Saskatchewan, agricultural withdrawals are highest for irrigation where water supplies are lowest.
(Intake cannot be separated from total water use. Total water use reported here)
(Intake cannot be separated from total water use. Total water use reported here)
(Intake cannot be separated from total water use. Total water use reported here)
|Atlantic||data not available||537.7||data not available||20.6||243.9||141.8||944.0|
|Quebec||data not available||1 833.1||24.2||113.2||1 581.5||219.6||3 771.6|
|Ontario||26 647.9||3 486.8||42.7||174.1||1 662.5||212.7||32 226.7|
|Prairies||data not available||675.2||data not available||3 592.4||624.1||128.9||5 020.5|
|British Columbia and North||data not available||1 246.1||62.1||886.2||771.8||153.3||3 119.5|
(Some values are not reported by region due to confidentiality and/or data issues. National totals therefore may not equal the sum of the regions)
|32 137.5||7 778.9||458.9||4 786.6||4 883.8||856.3||45082.5|
|Percent of Total||63.12||15.28||0.90||9.40||9.60||1.68||100|
|Percent of Total (rounded)||63||15||1||9.5||9.5||2||100|
Source: Environment Canada. Municipal Water and Wastewater Survey, 2006
Statistics Canada. Estimation of Water Use in Canadian Agriculture in 2001 and Statistics Canada Industrial Water Survey, 2005.
Thermal Power Generation
This industrial sector, which includes both conventional and nuclear power generating plants, withdrew 63% of the total water intake in 2005. Next to fuels, water is the most important resource used in large-scale thermal power production. Production of one kilowatt-hour of electricity requires 140 litres of water for fossil fuel plants and 205 litres for nuclear power plants. Some of the water is converted to the steam which drives the generator producing the electricity. Most of the water, however, is used for condenser cooling.
Why is so much cooling necessary? Because today's processes can only convert 40% of the fuel's energy into usable electricity. The rest is wasted. This shows the double cost of inefficient energy use: first, in the wasted energy, and then in the water required to cool the wasted heat to the temperature where it can be released safely into the environment. This requires a continuous flow of cooling water circulating through the condenser. All the cooling water is therefore returned to the environment much warmer. However, the temperature can be reduced using cooling towers and other such devices.
Water is the lifeblood of industry. It is used as a raw material, a coolant, a solvent, a transport agent, and as a source of energy. An automobile coming off the assembly line, for example, will have used at least 120 000 litres of water -- 80 000 to produce its tonne of steel and 40 000 more for the actual fabrication process. Many thousands more litres of water are involved in the manufacture of its plastic, glass, fabric components. Manufacturing accounted for 15% of water withdrawals in 2005. Paper and allied products, primary metals, and chemicals were the three main industrial users.
Industrial water use data
There have been seven industrial water surveys (1976, 1981, 1986, 1991, 1996, 2005 and 2007). These surveys were conducted subject to the federal Statistics Act under an agreement between Statistics Canada and Environment Canada. A detailed report on industrial water use has been released, based on the data collected in the 2007 survey.
Data from the 2007 Industrial Water Survey are now available. To order data, for more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Statistics Canada.
Can you imagine a city without water? We use it for drinking, cooking, and for other household needs. In 2004, Canadians, on average, used 329 litres of water per person per day.
Water is also needed to clean our streets, fight fires, fill public swimming pools, and water lawns and gardens.
Municipal water use, including residential, commercial, and public uses, and the water lost from reservoirs and pipes amounted to about 9.5% of all withdrawals in Canada in 2006. This figure does not include rural areas where water use is not measured. If rural domestic uses were included, this figure would rise to about 11.5%.
Municipal Water Use and Water Pricing Data
The first set of municipal data was from a federal and provincial inventory of municipal water works and water treatment facilities published in 1975. It was updated by Environment Canada with 1986, 1989, 1991, 1994, 1996, 1999, 2001, 2004 and 2006 surveys. For more information on the Municipal Water and Wastewater Survey (MWWS) and for complete data on water use for survey years 1983-1999, 2001, 2004 and 2006 and water pricing for survey years 1991-1999, 2001, 2004 and 2006 please see the Data and Publications section on the MWWS website.
Canadian Municipal Water and Sewage Rates
Some of the following hyperlinks are to sites of organizations or other entities that are not subject to the Official Languages Act. The material found there is therefore in the language(s) used by the sites in question.
- British Columbia
- New Brunswick
- Newfoundland and Labrador
- Northwest Territories
- Nova Scotia
- Prince Edward Island
|Big Lakes (Municipal District)|
|Crowsnest Pass (Town)|
|Foothills No. 31 (Municipal District)|
|Fort Macleod (Town)|
|Grande Prairie (City)|
|High River (Town)|
|Medicine Hat (City)|
|New Norway (Village)|
|Red Deer (City)|
|Red Deer (County)|
|Spruce Grove (City)|
|St. Albert (City)|
|Sturgeon County (Municipal District)|
|Three Hills (Town)|
|Capital Regional District (Census Division)|
|Cowichan Valley (Regional District)|
|Dawson Creek (City)|
|East Kootenay (Regional District)|
|Fraser Valley (Regional District)|
|Grand Forks (City)|
|Nanaimo (Regional District)|
|New Westminster (City)|
|North Cowichan (Municipality)|
|North Saanich (District Municipality)|
|North Vancouver (City)|
|Oak Bay (District)|
|Port Alberni (City)|
|Port Coquitlam (City)|
|Port Edward (District)|
|Port Moody (City)|
|Prince George (City)|
|Sunshine Coast (Regional District)|
|West Vancouver (District)|
|Brandon (City)||41 511|
|Dauphin (City)||7 906|
|Morden (Town)||6 571|
|Morris (Town)||1 643|
|Neepawa (Town)||3 298|
|Pinawa (District)||1 450|
|Portage la Prairie (City)||12 728|
|Swan River (Town)||3 859|
|Winnipeg (City)||633 451|
|Grand Bay-Westfield (Town)|
|Grand Falls (Town)|
|New Maryland (Village)|
|Saint John (City)|
|Conception Bay South (Town)|
|Corner Brook (City)|
|St. John's (City)|
|Fort Simpson (Village)|
|Norman Wells (Town)|
|Cape Breton (Regional Municipality)|
|Halifax (Regional Municipality)|
|Port Hawkesbury (Town)|
|Bonnechere Valley (Township)|
|Fort Erie (Town)|
|Fort Frances (Town)|
|Haldimand County (City)|
|Halton (Regional Municipality)|
|Kawartha Lakes (City)|
|Killaloe, Hagarty and Richards (Township)|
|Kirkland Lake (Town)|
|Madawaska Valley (Township)|
|Nairn and Hyman (Township)|
|New Tecumseth (Town)|
|Niagara (Regional Municipality)|
|Niagara Falls (City)|
|North Bay (City)|
|North Dundas (Township)|
|North Middlesex (Municipality)|
|Parry Sound (Town)|
1 159 405
|Port Colborne (City)|
|Quinte West (City)|
|Richmond Hill (Town)|
|Sault Ste. Marie (City)|
|South Bruce (Municipality)|
|South Huron (Municipality)|
|Southwest Middlesex (Municipality)|
|St. Catharines (City)|
|St. Clair (Township)|
|St. Thomas (City)|
|Thames Centre (Municipality)|
|Thunder Bay (City)|
2 503 281
|Trent Hills (Municipality)|
|Wasaga Beach (Town)|
|Wellington North (Township)|
|Whitewater Region (Township)|
|Kensington (Town)||1 485|
1 620 693
|Hudson Bay (Town)|
|Meadow Lake (Town)|
|Moose Jaw (City)|
|Porcupine Plain (Town)|
|Prince Albert (City)|
|Swift Current (City)|
What is a Fair Price?
Consider for a moment the great contribution water makes to our quality of life -- indeed to life itself. Most of us rely on municipal water service, and our health depends on the quality of the water supplied. Most Canadians have been putting this service inadvertently at serious risk by not paying a sufficient price for its provision. According to the National Round Table on the Environment and Economy, unmet water and wastewater infrastructure needs in Canada were $38-49 billion in 1996, and capital costs for the following 20 years will be in the order of $70-90 billion.
There is one clear way to deal with this problem. We need to pay realistic rates for water service which are sufficient to cover their true cost. In other words, we should pay a fair price that will recover the full cost of water delivered to the tap, one that is based on actual quantity used. Those who use more water should pay more and those who use less should pay less. Experience has shown that one important result will be users recognize the real value of this resource, and will use it more efficiently and wisely.
The price Canadians pay for water varies significantly across the country. Analysis of the 2004 Municipal Water and Wastewater Survey and the accompanying Municipal Pricing Report (2004 statistics) prepared in 2008 indicates that the average domestic water user (assuming 25 000 litres per month) pays $1.26 for 1000 litres. This value has increased substantially in recent years from about 82 cents per 1000 litres in 1991, and nationally, now includes a waste treatment component of about 46.5%. Correcting the problem of the undervalued water resource would involve minimal change. However, in some cases, economically rational pricing would also require an increase in water metering, which in turn would reduce demand enough to postpone the need for new facilities for years, with significant savings for each year of postponement.
Even with the price, water would still be the best bargain going, compared with other liquids we consume -- and which, unlike water, are not delivered at our taps year-round. Bottled water, for example, is in great demand at $1 500 for 1000 litres, or 1000 times the price for the same volume of high quality tap water! Just compare the price of tap water with the typical cost of some other beverages.
* All amounts are in Canadian dollars.
** Only tap water includes automatic delivery to the user. This figure includes the cost of waste treatment.
In 2004, the average Canadian daily domestic use of fresh water was 329 litres per person. At least half of this amount is unnecessary and wasteful. Common causes of waste at home are leaking faucets, faulty plumbing, and over-use of water for watering the lawn and washing the car. Much of this waste would be reduced if we had to pay a fair price for water. As our usage becomes more efficient, we would not only produce less wastewater, we could also afford better treatment for it. In fact, wastewater usually becomes easier to treat if it is less diluted at the treatment plant, as there is less water to be removed from the sludge. The result would be multiple savings and a better environment.
The same principle applies to industrial, agricultural, and commercial users. If major industries with their own water supplies were also charged for the amount they withdraw from their source of water, reuse would increase and a more efficient use of water would result. In fact, recycling has been called an automatic solution to the water quality problem. The cleaner the discharge required by regulations, the easier and more economical it is to reuse that same water instead of pumping in fresh supplies. Realistic pricing of water for large-volume agricultural uses such as irrigation would tend to lead to greater efficiency in its use, and therefore to conservation.
Farmers depend on water for livestock and crop production. Agriculture was the fourth largest water user in 2005, accounting for 9% of total withdrawals. Water is withdrawn mainly for irrigation (92.4%) and livestock watering (5.4%). Irrigation is needed mainly in the drier parts of Canada, such as the southern regions of Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. Irrigation is also used in Ontario and the Maritimes for frost control. Since so much of the water intake evaporates, only a small fraction is returned to its source. This is a highly consumptive use.
This category includes metal mining, non-metal mining, and the extraction of coal. Water is used by the mining industry to separate ore from the rock, to cool drills, to wash the ore during production, and to carry away unwanted material.
Although the mining industry had a gross use half that used in agriculture, mining accounted for only 1% of all water intake in 2005, compared to 9% in the agricultural sector. This was the smallest withdrawal use, but mining recirculates its water intake to a greater extent than any other sector.
- Date Modified: