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Charting a Course – Water Use by Sectors

With an expanding economy and a growing international demand for Canada’s agricultural, energy, mining, and forest products, Canada’s natural resource sectors are well positioned to prosper. Recent economic forecasts for these sectors predict they will be one and a half times larger in 2030 than they are today. This means expected water use will grow too: the question is, “How much will water use rise?” This is a difficult question to answer as no comprehensive, and useful information base linking long-term economic growth to water use in Canada currently exists.
Select a natural resource sector below to see its water use, including water intensity, water intake, and economic output.
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Pulp and Paper
Oil and Gas
 Thermal Electricity

Natural resource sectors have steadily decoupled their economic growth from their water intake and use

Our research demonstrates that, in fact, industry has steadily decoupled economic expansion from water use over the years. Our forecasts indicate that, on a national scale, water intake in the natural resource sectors may increase by just 3% between now and 2030, even though economic production could increase by almost 40% overall for the sectors in this study. This of course masks some sector and regional variation, as localized demands for water use can be expected to grow over time, which may uncover significant challenges.

Figure 8: Natural Resource Sectors’ Water-use Intensity, 1981–2005

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National increased water intake for the sectors – 3% overall by 2030 – may not be significant, but this likely masks regional issues

Figure 5: Water Use in the Natural Resource Sectors, 1981–2005
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Charting a Course - Figure 16

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Provincial Water Use in the Natural Resource Sectors

Provincially, the largest water use is concentrated in Ontario and Alberta, reflecting the large share of thermal power in the provincial economies. Large agriculture and manufacturing water use also contribute to Ontario’s high share of national water use. In Alberta, thermal electricity dominates water use, followed by agriculture and manufacturing. Oil and gas uses less than 5% of the water in Alberta. With hydroelectricity not covered in this study, manufacturing dominates intake in Québec, the third largest provincial water user as defined in our study. Thermal electricity water use predominates in Saskatchewan and Atlantic Canada, but agricultural water use is higher in Saskatchewan. British Columbia’s water intake is primarily concentrated in thermal electricity and manufacturing, with each accounting for about 40% intake. Finally, in 2005, Manitoba had the lowest water intake nationally, with agriculture accounting for over 50% of total natural resource sector use within the province.

Figure 6: Provincial Water Use in the Natural Resource Sectors, 2005

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