Water Quantity in Canadian Rivers

In 2011, 18 drainage regions were classified as having normal water quantity; three had higher-than-normal water quantity; and one had lower-than-normal water quantity. Over the past decade, Canada’s rivers typically had a normal quantity of water. Higher-than-normal water quantity was observed in three drainage regionsFootnote [1]in 2011, a particularly wet year across the south central prairies. Four drainage regions had lower-than-normal water quantity in 2003, a year with lower-than-usual rainfall and snowfall in central Canada.

Water quantity in Canada’s drainage regions, 2002 to 2011

Water quantity in Canada’s drainage regions, 2002 to 2011

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How this indicator was calculated

Note: Normal water quantity is based on the amount of water observed at water quantity monitoring stations from 1981-2010 for Canada’s 25 drainage regions. There are not enough data to describe water quantity for three drainage regions. Normal water quantities are specific to each region and do not refer to the same amount of water in each drainage region (e.g., normal water quantity on the Prairies is different from normal water quantity in the Maritimes). For more information about how each drainage region was rated, please see Regional Water Quantity in Canadian Rivers.
Source: Water Survey of Canada, Environment Canada (2013) HYDATDatabase. Retrieved on 19 August, 2013.

Canada is a water-rich country, with its rivers and lakes accounting for 7% of the world’s renewable freshwater.Footnote [2]However, even with all this water, shortages are a serious problem for regions of Canada when natural water supplies do not always meet human demand. Natural changes in temperature, rainfall and snowfall can cause water quantities in rivers, lakes and reservoirs to rise and fall throughout the year. These weather fluctuations can result in flooding or water shortages.

The water quantity category given to a drainage region is based on the water level or flow classification most frequently observed at monitoring stations within that region. The water quantity for a station is classified as low, normal or high in relation to the quantity typically observed each day of the year at that station compared to values collected from 1981-2010. Normal water quantity does not mean there are not areas within the drainage region with too much or not enough water for some period of the year.

Related indicators

Other information

Theme II: Maintaining Water Quality and Availability of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy.
This indicator is used to measure progress toward Goal 3: Water Quality and Water Quantity – Protect and enhance water so that it is clean, safe and secure for all Canadians and supports healthy ecosystems. of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy 2013-2016.


Footnote 1

A drainage region is an area of land where all the water under and on it drains into the same lake, wetland or ocean. Stations within a drainage region are connected by a common water source. A map of Canada’s 25 drainage regions can be found in the Regional Water Quantity in Canadian Rivers indicator.

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Footnote 2

Renewable freshwater refers to the total amount of freshwater available for use in Canadian rivers. It is calculated as the total volume of water flowing in a river plus the volume of water returned to it from groundwater, rainfall and snowfall, plus water originating from outside the country.

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