2011 Municipal Water Use Report – Municipal Water Use 2009 Statistics

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Understanding how Canadian communities use water is a prerequisite to gauging Canada’s progress toward the sustainable use of its water resources. Environment Canada’s MWWS provides information that allows the public, water managers and policy-makers alike to measure and compare different aspects of water use in the municipal sector, and to make informed decisions concerning our valuable water resources and water infrastructure.

The 2009 MWWS results suggest that both residential and total municipal water use per capita is dropping in many parts of the country, indicating a shift towards more efficient use of water both in homes and in businesses. Even so, residential and total per capita water use levels nevertheless remain significantly higher than those observed in many industrialized nations. In fact, the 2009 per capita water use is higher than that recorded in all 30 of the European countries included in a comparative evaluation published by the European Federation of National Associations of Water and Wastewater Services in 2009.6 Furthermore, the drop over 2006 to 2009 may be at least partly related to cooler, wetter weather in many parts of the country during 2009. Results from future MWWS survey cycles--beginning with the next survey in 2011--will help to determine whether or not this drop represents a lasting trend.

The increase in metering in both the residential and commercial sectors also suggests an effort on behalf of Canadian municipalities to send a price signal for water demand management and to better track water use in their jurisdiction. The companion Water Pricing report (2009 statistics) will complement this Water Use report (2009 statistics) by exploring the water rates and rate types used in Canadian municipalities in 2009.

Comparing the 2009 national results to previous years reveals that population served by piped water, sewer and water treatment services, water use by sector (residential, commercial, etc.), and the volume of water extracted from surface and groundwater sources have all remained stable since 2006 and earlier. The overall percentage of water lost from leaks or used for system maintenance has also seen little change, in spite of significant efforts by some municipalities and water utilities to reduce water losses.

The vast majority of water used in Canadian homes and businesses ends up in a municipal sewer system. This water--which in municipalities that have combined sewer systems is mixed with runoff from roads and other surfaces--contains a wide variety of pollutants that can be harmful to both human and environmental health. In 2009, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment endorsed the Canada-wide Strategy for the Management of Municipal Wastewater Effluent with the aim of setting out a harmonized framework to manage discharges from wastewater facilities in Canada. The Government of Canada has since proposed regulations for wastewater systems, including national standards for wastewater effluent quality that represent a secondary level of wastewater treatment or equivalent. As facilities are upgraded to meet the regulations over the coming decades, the percent of the population served by “None/Preliminary” and “Primary” wastewater treatment is expected to drop.

The next MWWS survey will collect data for the year 2011, continuing the series of Water Use and Pricing reports and data products produced by Environment Canada since the 1980s. These regularly produced data and analyses are intended to provide information that supports water management decisions in the broader context of ecosystem management, thus contributing to Canada’s goal of promoting wise and efficient management and use of water.


6. EUREAU, 2008.


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