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.

Charting a Course: Sustainable Water Use by Canada’s Natural Resource Sectors


Water has both environmental and economic value. It is essential to sustaining ecosystems and growing our economy. Ensuring our natural resources sectors – the biggest water users in Canada – both have enough water to grow, and use that water more efficiently and sustainably, is what the NRT’s new water report is all about. Read the Executive Summary


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The natural resource sectors use and consume more water than any other sectors in the nation, accounting for approximately 86% of Canada’s water use in 2005.

According to economic forecasts, the sectors are expected to experience significant growth, ranging from 23% to 58%, by 2030. Added to other stresses, like climate change and a resultant increase in the frequency of extreme weather events, the NRT has concluded that the long-term sustainability of our water resources may be in question. And more specifically that our governance and management structures may be not be well positioned to deal with an uncertain water future, especially with respect to water quantities in this country. Read more


Our research shows that we can address some of the water challenges associated with a prosperous resource sector by taking steps to

  • better understand the future growth of the natural resource sectors and their water requirements;
  • recognize the value of water, both in terms of how much it currently costs the sectors and where water pricing may be an incentive for further water efficiency and conservation;
  • ensure that water strategies and policies include a suite of new policy instruments that are readily available for implementation, including water pricing and voluntary initiative options;
  • develop comprehensive water data and information systems, taking stock of both water supplies and water demands, particularly in the most vulnerable watersheds in the country; and
  • promote further collaborative water governance in appropriate circumstances, such as in the need for water strategy development.


Water Forecasts

Historical water use by the natural resource sectors shows improved water-use efficiency for most sectors, even in the absence of water policies to motivate such efficiency gains.

Policy Instruments

Economic instruments (EIs) and voluntary initiatives have real potential for contributing to the goals of improving water conservation and water efficiency.

Water-Use Data and Information

A lack of reliable, publicly available data on water quantity has negative implications for current and future water resource management in Canada.

Collaborative Water Governance

Effective collaborative water governance requires the involvement of a broad range of stakeholders.

Read more


Principles for Water Governance and Management

The NRT recommends that federal, provincial, and territorial governments developing new water strategies should adopt the following core principles in our report:

  • Water has value — in economic, environmental, and social terms — and should be managed in trust without harm to its sustainability or that of the ecosystems in which it occurs.
  • Water must be conserved and used efficiently.
  • Water governance and management should be adaptive.
  • Water governance and management should be collaborative.

Read more


Book Cover - Charting a Course

download the report


November 17, 2011 – Canada needs fresh approach to water supply management for natural resource sectors
Read the News Release
Read the Media Backgrounder


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The NRT set out to explore the potential of collaborative water governance approaches and how they might assist in achieving sustainable water use by the natural resources sectors. Read more


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The NRT research shows the potential that putting a price on water has on achieving water reduction objectives, with modest impacts to most sectors and the national economy. Read more


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Good policy development and solid management decisions require sound evidence and information. Information is derived from data, and in the context of water quantities in Canada, this data is not as comprehensive or as readily available as it should be. Read more

Expert Advisory Committee Members

Zafar Adeel
Assistant Director
United Nations University
Paul Allen
Assistant Director
Horizontal Policy and Cabinet Strategies
Natural Resources Canada
Ron Bonnett
Canadian Federation of Agriculture
Bill Borland
Vice President, Canadian Federal Programs
AMEC Earth Environmental
Oliver Brandes
Associate Director and Water Sustainability
Project Leader
Polis Project on Ecological Governance
David Brooks
Director, Water Soft Path Research
Polis Project on Ecological Governance
Jim Bruce
Chair, Expert Panel on Groundwater
Council of Canadian Academies
Giulia Brutesco
Manager, Environment and Technology
Canadian Electricity Association
Murray Clamen
Former Secretary, Canadian Section
International Joint Commission
Roger Cook
Former Director, Environment
Forest Products Association of Canada
Rob de Loë
Professor and University Research Chair,
Water Policy and Governance
University of Waterloo
Michael Keenan
Assistant Deputy Minister
Environment Canada
Mike Kelly
Director, Alberta Water Council
Chair, Bow River Basin Council
Gail Krantzberg
Professor and Director
Centre for Engineering and Public Policy
McMaster University
Gordon Lambert
Vice President, Sustainable Development
Suncor Energy Inc.
Irving LeBlanc
Director, Housing and Infrastructure
Assembly of First Nations
John MacQuarrie
Deputy Minister
Prince Edward Island Ministry of the Environment, Energy, and Forestry
David Marshall
Executive Director
Fraser Basin Council
Administration and Environment
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Rick Meyers
Vice President, Technical and Northern Affairs
The Mining Association of Canada
Tim Morris
Program Manager, Freshwater Program
Walter & Duncan Gordon Foundation
Geoff Munroe
Associate ADM and Chief Scientist
Assistant Deputy Minister’s Office
Natural Resources Canada
Tara Payment
Environment and Regulatory Analyst
Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers
Steven Renzetti
Professor, Department of Economics
Brock University
Bob Sandford
Chair, Canadian Partnership Initiative,
United Nations, Water for Life Decade;
Director, Western Watersheds Climate Research Collaborative