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Great Lakes Article:

More water shortages forecast for communities across nation
By Dennis Bueckert
London Free Press
03/30/04



OTTAWA -- Despite Canada's vast water resources, many communities have faced shortages and the problem will likely get worse with climate change, an Environment Canada report says. About 26 per cent of Canadian municipalities with water supply systems experienced water shortages from 1994 to 1999, the report, Threats to Canada's Water Supply, points out.

"I think that it's going to get worse," Liz Lefrancois of Environment Canada, one of the authors, said yesterday. "I think the issue is there and we have to address it."

Even Vancouver, with all its rain, has to impose lawn-watering restrictions in the summer, she noted.

Many municipalities are already having trouble finding high-quality sources of drinking water and are forced to adopt costly solutions.

"This may require the use of more distant sources, or development of sources with lower water quality requiring more complex treatment entailing more losses in the treatment process.

"Stress on both surface water and groundwater sources may lead to service disruptions."

On a per-capita basis, Canadians are among the biggest water users in the world, says John Carey, director general of the National Water Research Institute, a federal agency. There is little effort made to manage demand.

"It's really pretty hard to tell people around the shores of Lake Ontario that we're short of water. We flush our toilets with drinking water."

Carey said water shortages are already hampering development in some regions of the country, and the problem will be exacerbated by climate change. "A lot of people equate climate change with global warming but climate has a major impact on water distribution."

Many prairies cities depend on water from glaciers in the Rockies but the glaciers are receding, he noted. "We believe Canadians will be impacted more on the water side than on temperature,"

Some of Canada's biggest cities, including Vancouver and Montreal, still don't meter water use, said Lefrancois. Montreal loses 40 per cent of its water to leakage.

She said public awareness of the issue is needed.

"Before . . . if you needed water, then you went and piped in or built a dam or did other things to add supply. Now, we realize that that supply is pretty finite and we're using it to capacity in many respects. So what we have to do is cut back on demand."


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