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StatsCan World Water Day Report
ACCOUNTING FOR DECREASED WATER CONSUMPTION IN CANADIAN HOUSEHOLDS
By Cori Marshall
Canadians tend to believe that we have endless supplies of freshwater, according to Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) the country is home to 20% of the total global supply of freshwater, but only 7% of the world's renewable sources. This is not bad when you take into account that all of this water is being used by approximately "half of a percent of the world's population." Canada appears to be water rich, with most of it, in lakes, aquifers, and glaciers.
How do Canadians use the freshwater at their disposal?
Data compiled by Statistics Canada on the country can show very different trends. In 2015 69% of Canadians reported using tap water as their primary source of drinking water. That trend is rising over a ten-year period, and bottled water as a primary source has been dropping over the same period from 30% to 19%.
Another StatsCan report shows that in 2013 the number of people being served by large water distribution systems were on the rise. At the same time water treatment plants reported a 1% decrease in production, and in the residential sector the daily average per capita use was 223 litres down 11% from 2011. This may seem paradoxical, how do more people who reportedly consume more water result in decreased production and demand, what are these numbers really saying?
Jennie Wang, Senior Analyst Agriculture, Energy, and Transport Statistics with Statistics Canada, said that what she could say is that the numbers are showing "a decrease in per capita water use for households, and [water efficient] fixtures could be driving that trend, but that wasn't covered by the surveys."
Duncan Hill, Professional Engineer and Manager with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), said that there have been "significant water savings in multi-unit buildings where water efficient toilets have been installed." Hill suggests that "most of the water reduction is due to the uptake of [low flow] flush toilets." These water efficient fixtures use much less water than the standard toilet.
Hill speculates that "habits have not changed [that] much and the cost of water is just too cheap to drive much behaviour change." The CMHC supported the development of the testing protocol of water efficient fixtures.
The housing corporation undertook the Dual-Flush Toilet Project with a group of partners that revealed positive results. The project report showed that the installed fixtures "reduced existing flush volumes by about 68% when installed in single family homes." They were also saved 26% more water than conventional 6-L toilets."
Individual water use habits may account for part of the decreased use. A report on water consumption published by the European Union show Canadians still have room to cut back. The national daily average in France from 2004-2008 that ranged between 120 L and 150 L per person as opposed to 233 L in Canada.
Growing populations are drawing their water from systems that serve 300 or more, yet numbers show that there is a decrease in production and demand. Results show that improved water efficient fixture technology may be playing a role in how we manage our water resources.