More water shortages forecast
for communities across nation
By Dennis Bueckert
London Free Press
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
"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."