Our process helps Canada achieve sustainable development solutions that integrate environmental and economic considerations to ensure the lasting prosperity and well-being of our nation.


We rigorously research and conduct high quality analysis on issues of sustainable development. Our thinking is original and thought provoking.


We convene opinion leaders and experts from across Canada around our table to share their knowledge and diverse perspectives. We stimulate debate and integrate polarities. We create a context for possibilities to emerge.


We generate ideas and provide realistic solutions to advise governments, Parliament and Canadians. We proceed with resolve and optimism to bring Canada’s economy and environment closer together.

Water Governance and Management Session – Calgary, Alberta – May 31, 2011

This event was part of a national initiative from the NRT looking into the sustainable use of water by the natural resource sectors, namely energy, agriculture, forest products and mining. The purpose of this meeting was to seek input into our research findings and conclusions, with a view to inform the NRT’s recommendations in its upcoming report this fall. The NRT water program is focused on the broad issue of water governance and management, and within this context we are looking at policy instruments, governance structures and information requirements. In accordance with the NRTEE’s mandate of looking at both environmental and economic considerations of issues of national importance, the recommendations in our report are intended to be supportive of economic growth while at the same time ensuring the health and resilience of Canada’s ecosystems.

The meeting and discussions focused on three components of our research:

  • forecasts of water use trends related to the natural resource sectors;
  • potential implications of water pricing on water use; and,
  • potential of collaborative governance approaches.


Meeting Agenda

Calgary, Alberta

The Westin Calgary, 320 4th Avenue S.W.

May 31, 2011

8:00 – 12:00

Welcome & Overview of Meeting Objectives
Setting the Context: NRTEE Water Program
Water Forecasts

  • Presentation of Findings & Conclusions
  • Roundtable Discussion, Question/Answer Period
Water Pricing

  • Presentation of Findings & Conclusions
  • Roundtable Discussion, Question/Answer Period
Collaborative Water Governance

  • Presentation of Findings & Conclusions
  • Roundtable Discussion, Question/Answer Period
Wrap-up and Closing Remarks

NRTEE Water Program Overview

The NRTEE is providing guidance on water policy and strategies that will ensure the sustainable use of water by the natural resource sectors in Canada. This report is the continuation of research documented in our 2010 report Changing Currents. The outcome of the NRTEE’s current research and advice is to assist policy makers, water managers and the sectors themselves in improving water efficiency and conservation, with the overall goal of reducing water demands in the future, ensuring adequate flows for the environment, and thus avoiding future conflicts over water.

The NRTEE is providing insights and advice in this report with two policy objectives in mind:

  • Improved water conservation – water conservation can be defined as any beneficial reduction in water use, loss, or waste; it often includes water management practices that improve the use of water resources to benefit people or the environment.
  • Improved water efficiency – efficient water use includes any measure that reduces the amount of water used per unit of any given activity, without compromising water quality.

The NRTEE recognizes on-going efforts across the country to modernize and improve existing water policies and legislation. Our findings and conclusions are intended to inform a larger, comprehensive on-going dialogue and debate across this country; as such, the information provided here should be taken within the broader context of integrated water resource management.

NRTEE Research Focus and Approach

The meeting will discuss three areas under investigation: water forecasts; water pricing; and collaborative water governance. A summary of our focus and the approach taken is provided here as background information for the meeting. Research findings, conclusions and directional recommendations will be provided and discussed with participants at the meeting.

Water Forecasts


With an expanding economy, and international demand growing for Canada’s natural resources, the natural resource sectors are well positioned to continue to prosper. Recent economic forecasts point to a natural resource sector that will increase in the order of 1.5 times larger in 2030 than today. As the NRTEE stated in Changing Currents, it is reasonable to expect water use by the natural resource sectors to increase with production levels. To answer the question of just how much water use will rise with production, the NRTEE sought to obtain national water use forecasts that could shed some light on future water use in the natural resource sectors. No comprehensive and useful information base linking long-term economic growth to water use in Canada currently exists.


The NRTEE developed a water intake forecast to 2030 to better understand how a growing economy might impact long-term industrial and agricultural water use. This is important knowledge as knowing future water use demands is central to good water management. It forms the basis of understanding regarding if sustainable water use risks might emerge.

Our forecast of water use out to 2030 is the product of two factors: first, the water use intensity or how much water is required to produce a product; and second, how much the sector will grow, or a forecast of economic production. Our research uses estimates of historical water intake, coupled with a long-term economic forecast, to provide us with one scenario that forecasts potential water demands out to 2030. This is a scenario analysis, based upon modeling which has never been done before in Canada. The results highlight potential water intake trends into the future, and are meant to be illustrative, not definitive, of what might occur with water use in this country.

Water Pricing       


Economic instruments, such as pricing water through a volumetric water charge, are initiatives that have the potential to move water users towards greater efficiency and conservation. In theory, the idea of water pricing has been discussed in Canada for over a decade now, and continues to be a consideration in recent and developing water strategies. However, in researching economic instruments for water management, the NRTEE found little information on its actual effectiveness and/or efficiency within the context of the natural resource sectors under investigation.


Using the water forecasts we developed, the NRTEE conducted new research to determine the potential of water pricing to deliver on efficiency and water reductions objectives. To assess the potential of water pricing, we started with determining the costs that industry currently pays for water intake and use. The total cost of using water includes components of what is paid in licensing fess to provincial governments as well as intake, recirculation and discharge costs that require energy, labour and capital. Having estimated these costs, we then added an additional cost – through a volumetric charge on intake – to determine how industry might respond, and potential impacts to the economy overall. Preliminary results are provided on a sectoral and regional basis.

Collaborative Water Governance


A number of Canadian jurisdictions have developed province or territory-wide water strategies, many of which have resulted in the development of collaborative water governance initiatives, often involving the creation of watershed-based organizations. The emergence of collaborative governance models provides a potential opportunity to improve the way we manage water and brings the flexibility required for addressing regional and local particularities. The structure, function and roles of these groups vary across Canada. The NRTEE wanted to better understand these differences, and explore how such initiatives might be used more in the future.


Our research was informed through a series of four regional workshops held in Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Québec, and involved a broad range of stakeholders involved in collaborative water governance including governments of all levels, non-governmental organizations, natural resources sectors and other interested citizens.

Within these regional workshops we discussed:

  • benefits and challenges of current collaborative water governance approaches;
  • government and industries’ changing roles in water governance and management, and how a collaborative governance process might deal with these changes; and
  • circumstances under which collaborative water governance might be appropriate.

Findings from the workshops provided insights into what works, what doesn’t and how such initiatives could be improved upon in the future.

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