NRTEE: David McLaughlin

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  • I am here today to release the NRTEE’s most recent report: Changing Currents, to highlight some of our findings and bring to your attention some of the issues facing Canada and our natural resource sectors. Changing Currents is a report that documents the relationship between water use and Canada’s natural resource sectors – including mining, forest, agriculture and energy. It highlights the most important uses and identifies some of the key issues facing the sectors related to water use. Consider the following: Canada’s natural resource sectors are collectively the most significant water users in the country – more than 80% of our water is used by these 4 sectors Canada’s economy is heavily reliant on our natural resource sectors -- accounting for 12.5% of GDP in 2009 and access to clean, sustainable supplies of water is essential for the operation and growth of all of these sectors with economic growth projections of 50 to 65% for these sectors by 2030 there is a reasonable expectation that Canada’s water resources will be under increasing stresses in 2009 Unilever poll, just over half of Canadians polled ranked freshwater as the country’s most important natural resource, ahead of our natural resources – it is our most important natural resource water is essential for life – it is vital for ecosystems, biodiversity and human well-being and so the economy – environment linkages is evident – while the economy is dependent upon the natural resource sector, which rely heavily on clean reliable water resources, our ecosystems must also have adequate, clean supplies of water to persist and
  • The NRTEE is conducting a 2 year program on water sustainability and the natural resource sectors; the overall goal is to address these two questions: 1. With the development of the natural resource sectors on the rise, does Canada have enough water to support economic growth while maintaining the health of our country’s ecosystems? 2. Are we in a position to sustainably manage our water resources for future generations? Phase 1 focused on profiling current and projected water uses by the sectors and sustainability issues; examining of governance issues; and exploring important considerations posed by climate change on water availability Phase 2 will examine the critical issues identified in phase 1, leading to policy recommendations to address these challenges. These recommendations will be aimed at fostering both ecosystem health and the economic prosperity of the natural resource sectors.
  • The report covers a lot of material: it addresses the critical importance of water for the ecosystems and highlights the importance of ecological services it reminds us of how complex our governance of water resources is in this country, involving all levels of government it spend considerable time explaining the most important water uses in the natural resource sectors, and highlights the key issues related to water use within the sectors and it distinguishes a number of cross-cutting issues that are relevant to many sectors and regions of the country, which we have defined as National Water Issues Some of the reports key findings: the time is now for Canadian policy makers, businesses, environmental groups and other concerned Canadians to look at ways to modernize outdated and inadequate water management practices. Data on precise water use and access to such data is limited, making it difficult to know the national supply of water and the amounts being used. Approaches to allocating water in most of Canada are outdated and may no longer be appropriate given new environmental pressures and competing economic interests. There is an overall lack of capacity and expertise across the country to effectively manage water resources. The impacts of climate change are expected to transform the way Canadians need to manage water resources.
  • Setting the Scene for context: This is a misperception that Canada’s water is plentiful and secure Canada is fortunate to have 20% of the world’s freshwater, but only 7% of the world’s renewable supply And our water isn’t necessarily where we need it – 60% of Canada’s water flows North, while 85% of our population and many of our economic activities are located along our southern border. Water scarcity is not currently a national problem, but it certainly is a regional issue. The prairies are most under stress (red and black areas), with the greatest amount of water being withdrawn in relation to the amount of water flowing in the watersheds. Southern Ontario and Quebec are also seeing increasing pressures for water resources Many of the natural resource sectors are located within these areas, which will put further pressures on the watersheds within these regions.
  • The NRTEE focused on the natural resource sectors because of their economic importance to the country and their significant water uses. their economic importance to the prosperity of our country, and the significant growth that is predicted for these sectors, in combination with their water use across the country -- these four natural resource sectors, use more water than any other sector of our society, accounting for approximately 84% of both gross and consumptive water use water consumption is dominated by agricultural practices, accounting for over 65% of the country’s water consumption – that is, water that is taken from the rivers and lakes and not returned. This is followed by the thermal power sector, far behind at approximately 12% of use. Given the potential for significant growth of these sectors over the medium to long term, there is a reasonable and somewhat predictable expectation that water use will increase significantly in the future. The question lies in the details, how much will the increase be? Where will it be greatest? What associated impacts can be expected? Currently we lack clarity and certainty about these potential issues. We have an incomplete and inaccurate picture of water dependencies as we don’t have a complete or accurate picture of actual water use – we have estimates for most. Add to this the increasing pressures on our water resources due to increased global demand for our natural resources, population growth, and anticipated changes due to climate change.
  • Because energy is such a diverse sector, the NRTEE chose to examine it by subsector: examining electricity (nuclear, hydro and thermal), and oil and gas separately Electricity sector this sector is the most important water user in Canada accounting for 64% of gross volumes and 10% of consumptive volumes. thermal electricity production uses significant gross volumes of water, therefore clearly these facilities have important implications for water management today as well as future developments the future electricity mix in the country is underway, and this will determine how and where water resources will be affected in the future due to the strong reliance of both thermal and hydro power on water, water restrictions or competing uses in the future may influence future siting of such facilities potential impacts due to climate change is also a key issue for consideration by these sectors
  • Oil and gas sector Nationally, the oil and gas sector is a small player in terms of gross water use. However, the sector has important implications for water use and water quality on a regional scale. The key sub-sectors noted in the report of importance are the oil sands and the potential development of shale gas, notably in BC, Alberta and part of Quebec The oil and gas sector’s impacts on water quality and ecosystems will continue to be an on-going challenge for the sector to manage.
  • This map identifies the areas of potential shale gas development in Canada, with the black circles generally highlighting the areas of shale gas reserves The potential development of shale gas in the country provides a great example of how we can get out ahead of a potential sustainable development issue involving one of our natural resources and water resources: shale gas developments hold significant promise in terms of being the next big energy development in the country, and across North America we know it could potentially require significant amounts of water and we know it could have important effects on water quality, including groundwater, due to the chemicals that are added to the fracing fluids therefore now is the time – before development takes off – to put in place governance structures and management tools that can anticipate possible issues and actually allow us to take a proactive approach to sustainably developing this resource.
  • Forest sector The forest sector is not the most significant water user in the country, but still have an important reliance on water availability The pulp and paper sector is the greatest water user within the forest sector, accounting for 5% water use in Canada; these estimates are from 2005, so with recent mill closures their use today is likely declined somewhat. Forest management is critical for natural water management, both in terms of water flows and water quality The role of forests in capturing and purifying water is a crucial, yet not-well-understood function of the hydrologic cycle. In Canada, the capacity to research this interplay has been dramatically reduced.
  • Mining sector The mining sector’s use of water is considerably less in comparison with the other natural resource sectors Aside from certain site-specific impacts to groundwater, the mining sector’s issues with water largely center around water quality due to mine drainage Adaptation to climate change is noted as an important issue for the sector; for example, the changing climate may affect the certainty to which they can predict, plan and design for extreme precipitation events such as flooding. An overabundance of water entering mine sites due to extreme weather events and melting permafrost—both on the horizon as a result of climate change--could pose increased risks to the mining sector and water resources.
  • The report examines the agriculture sector, primarily looking at primary production, and there is an examination of biofuel production Agriculture is responsible for 10% of water use in Canada, but more importantly, it is the greatest consumer of water at 66%. This information comes from surveys conducted by Statistics Canada, but in fact, most primary agricultural operations do not know or report out on their water use. The report notes that agriculture plays an important role in Canada’s economy and for food security, yet the nature of the sector is changing. There is a trend towards fewer, larger farms and a move towards higher-value crops. Agricultural output is expected to grow at a rate of 2% per year over 2008-2030. In addition, forecasts for the biofuels sector suggest a doubling of ethanol and biodiesel output by 2010. These trends will have important implications for water use. The impacts of water use for irrigation in the Prairies is significant – and risks associated with failure to meet demands are made observed in regional examples of water conflicts such as those experienced in the Okanagan of BC and Southwestern Ontario. The report makes note that agriculture also has important implications for water quality, although the report is more focused on water quantity. Climate change will have important impacts on the sector with significant implications for water use for both irrigation needs and livestock watering. Many experts examining climate risks for the Prairie region anticipate the potential for prolonged drought leading to increased conflict over water allocation and severe economic implications.
  • Impacts emerging from climate change are expected to transform the way we manage water; the uncertainty regarding the severity, timing, and frequency of events is the main challenge for us as managers of the water resources. This issue is linked directly with our lack of scientific understanding of how the climate may change and the implications for us. The impacts on water resources in Canada, due to climate change, are expected to be variable across the country and are expected to be felt in different ways as the global temperatures rise. These include: effects due to increased water availability such as increased runoff initially to extreme rain events doubling in frequency as temperatures rise Effects due to decreased water availability such as increased desertification in the prairies And related to this are impacts due to water shortages and stress, such as increasing competition and disputes over water access, particularly with waters flowing into the United States
  • Impacts emerging from climate change are expected to transform the way we manage water; the uncertainty regarding the severity, timing, and frequency of events is the main challenge for us as managers of the water resources. This issue is linked directly with our lack of scientific understanding of how the climate may change and the implications for us. The impacts on water resources in Canada, due to climate change, are expected to be variable across the country and are expected to be felt in different ways as the global temperatures rise. These include: effects due to increased water availability such as increased runoff initially to extreme rain events doubling in frequency as temperatures rise Effects due to decreased water availability such as increased desertification in the prairies And related to this are impacts due to water shortages and stress, such as increasing competition and disputes over water access, particularly with waters flowing into the United States
  • The water-energy nexus: A common theme that was raised in the meetings is how the relationship between water and energy use is driving efforts to improve water use efficiency. In some cases, however, there are important tradeoffs to consider – in relation to water quality or energy efficiency that comes at the cost of water. this issue is further complicated when climate change mitigation is factored in with the need to reduced GHG emissions; policies aimed at reducing GHGs may in fact have important implications for water resources These tradeoffs should therefore be considered in the development of future policies and regulations.
  • Public licence to operate: There is a strong public interest in water issues. Public pressure on the resource sectors continues to drive innovation and improved water use and management. This highlights the potential improvements that could be made if the right policy environment existed to facilitate further improvement.
  • The NRTEE has identified 4 central national issues related to water use and the natural resource sectors: Water governance and management; The impacts of climate change on water resources; The Water-Energy Nexus; and the public licence to operate Water governance and management is the more complex, comprising of a number of challenges, notably: the complexity of water governance in this country, involving all levels of government the water allocation frameworks that form the basis of the management of water the policy instruments, of lack of, currently used to manage water the incomplete knowledge basis that we are working from
  • The NRTEE has determined that in order to address the issue of water sustainability and the future of the natural resource sectors, the key challenges related to governance and water management must be explored. Because we do not fully understand the extent of the potential effects of the sectors’ growth on Canada’s water resources we need to d rill down in these areas to examine: allocation schemes: Are the water allocation schemes in Canada still effective and appropriate basis for managing water in the 21st century? If not, what is necessary to improve these approaches and make them relevant and effective in a world of competing water uses? policy instruments: What policy instruments (or combination of) can be used in a ‘national water framework’ that has the goal of ensuring sustainable water and natural resources for future generations? Is there a role of water pricing, and if so, what is the role? collaborative governance: Given the importance of water to Canadians, there is a movement to involving more people in decision-making about water management – this is a movement towards what is known as “collaborative governance”. We need to understand better the potential for such an approach in water management and its potential in the future of water governance water data & information: Clearly we do not have a solid understanding of our water supplies or demands – we need to have a better understanding of what is available and water is being use. But how can this be achieved? What is necessary to get a better handle on our water resources?


  • 1.  
  • 2. Table of Contents
    • I : NRTEE Water Program
    • II: Natural Resource Sector and Water-Use
    • III: National Water Issues
    • IV: Water Report Phase II
    • Two Year Program
    • Two Questions
    • With the development of the natural resource sectors on the rise, does Canada have enough water to support economic growth while maintaining the health of our country’s ecosystems?
    • What do we need to do to sustainably manage our water resources for future generations?
    • Two Phases
    • Phase I (2009/10): Issue Identification – Changing Currents
    • Phase II (2010/11): Options & Solutions – report in summer 2011
    • Addressing Nature’s Water Needs
    • Water Governance & Management in Canada
    • Natural Resources Sectors – Water Use, Issues & Opportunities
    • National Water Issues
    • NRTEE Expert Advisory Committee of Canada’s leading water experts
    • Expert Workshop in February 2009
      • Scope out the NRTEE water program
    • Partnered with key industry associations
    • to host series of sector meetings:
      • Mining Association of Canada
      • Forest Products Association of Canada
      • Canadian Nuclear Association
      • Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers
      • Canadian Federation of Agriculture
    • Water governance workshop in February 2010
      • In collaboration with Water Policy and Governance Group
    • Resulted in Phase I Report – CHANGING CURRENTS
    • Misperception that Canada has an abundance of water
    • Stresses on water resources already exist in some regions
    • Economic growth & increasing demands for Canada’s natural resources will mean more water will be needed
    • Changes due to climate change will create uncertainty concerning temperature changes, rainfall, droughts and floods
  • 8. SECTION II: Natural Resource Sectors & Water Use
    • Economic importance:
    • 12.5% GDP
    • 50% - 65% economic growth anticipated by 2030
    • Most significant water users:
    • 84% gross water use and water consumption
    • Sectors’ growth likely to result in significant increase of water use
  • 10. ELECTRICITY SECTOR (Hydro & thermal)
    • The most significant gross water user in Canada – 64% of gross volumes and 10% of consumptive volume
    • For fossil and nuclear power generation, water availability is a key consideration
    • Key Issues
      • Managing impacts of climate change
      • and future electricity generation mix
      • Managing impacts on ecosystems
      • Water availability
      • Impacts on water quality
  • 11. OIL & GAS SECTOR
    • Relatively small water user overall
      • 75% of Canadian oil & gas production in Alberta, with 7% of Alberta’s total water allocations
    • But strong sector growth will have regional water impacts
      • Oil sands production forecast to increase by at least 50% by 2013
    • Impacts on water quality and ecosystems will continue to be a challenge
    • Key issues
      • Water quality
      • Water availability
      • Unknown impacts on groundwater resources
  • 12.
    • Shale gas:
    • An opportunity for sustainable development?
    • Not the most significant water user but water availability key to production
      • Pulp & paper uses 5% of Canada’s gross water use, but with nearly 90% returned to surface waters after treatment
    • Canada’s forests play a crucial role in influencing quality and quantities of water resources
    • Key issues
      • Limited knowledge of forest-water interactions
      • Public licence to operate
      • Pulp & paper mill effects on water quality and ecosystems
    • Not a significant user or consumer of water
      • 3% of national consumption but…
      • Mining activities can have impacts on ecosystems and water quality if not managed properly
    • Climate change impacts are important for management & future design of mines, particularly in the North
    • Key issues
      • Water management and quality
      • Climate change adaptation
    • Agriculture consumes more water than any other sector in Canada:
      • 66% of national water consumption
      • 77% of the sector’s water use is for irrigation
    • Regional impacts important – Prairies, Okanagan, Southwestern Ontario
    • Anticipated increase in demand for irrigation, meat, crops and biofuels, are all likely to result in increased water demand
    • Key issues
      • Climate change adaptation
      • Impacts on water quality & ecosystems
  • 16. SECTION III: National Water Issues
    • 1. Impacts of climate change on water resources
      • Large-scale hydrological cycles driven by climate change are occurring and are anticipated to continue to change in the future
      • Significant uncertainty related to hydrological events, and their subsequent impacts, is the main challenge
    • 2. Water-energy nexus
      • Cost savings gained through energy conservation and efficiency is a key driver for improving water use for all of the sectors
      • With the linkage of climate change mitigation and energy, the indirect linkage with water needs to be considered more in policy discussions
    • 3. Public licence to operate
      • Increasing expectations from the public, as well as financial institutions, are a key consideration and driver of sustainable water management
      • Good governance can enhance public licence to operate
    • 4. Water governance and management
      • Complexity of statutes and policies
      • Outdated water allocations systems
      • Limited policy instruments
      • Limited knowledge base
  • 22. SECTION IV: Water Report Phase II
  • 23. NRTEE Water Report II
    • Water governance & management is key to sustainability
    • Water allocation approaches warrant further examination
      • Are current water allocation approaches adequate?
    • Policy instruments for water management
      • What opportunities exist to enhance water management using a broader suite of policy instruments?
    • Collaborative governance
      • Can innovative collaborative governance help sustainable water management?
    • Water use data and information
      • What information is needed to better understand and manage our water resources into the future?
  • 25.
    • The Value of Current Knowledge – A Case Study of the Forest Products Industry Water Profile
      • Kirsten Vice
        • Vice President, NCASI
    • The Water-Energy Nexus in Canada
      • Pierre Lundahl
        • President, Lundahl Environment