World Water Day... by the numbers


March 22 is World Water Day, an annual international event, officially designated by the United Nations in 1993 to create awareness about the importance of freshwater, freshwater resources and sustainability.

This year's theme is wastewater.

To mark this important occasion, we have compiled some facts on water in Canada, and on the use of this precious resource by Canadians.

(Last updated: March 21, 2017)

From sea to sea to sea

  • 243,042 kilometres — the length of Canada's coastline on three oceans. Canada has the longest coastline in the world, compared with Indonesia (54,716 km), Russia (37,653 km), the United States (19,924 km) and China (14,500 km).
  • 16.1 metres – the mean large tide of Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia, the world's highest tide.

Source: Canada Year Book, 2012

Water, water everywhere

  • 1,169,561 square kilometre (km2) - the area of freshwater in Canada, accounting for 11.7% of the country's total area.

Sources: Human Activity and the Environment, 2016

  • 244,160 km2 – the total area of the Great Lakes, of which just over one third (35.8%) is on the Canadian side of the border.

Source: Summary tables: The Great Lakes, dimensions

  • 31,328 km2 – the area of Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories, the largest lake wholly within Canada.

Source: Summary tables: Principal lakes, elevation and area, by province and territory

  • 614 metres – the depth of Great Slave Lake, Northwest Territories, the deepest lake in Canada.

Source: Canada Year Book, 2012

  • 4,241 km – the length of Mackenzie River from its furthest source to its ultimate outlfow, the longest river in Canada.

Source: Summary tables: Principal rivers and their tributaries

  • 440 metres – the height of Della Falls, British Columbia, the highest waterfall in Canada.
  • 2,765 km2- the area of Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron, Ontario, which holds the title of the world's largest island in a freshwater lake.

Source: Canada Year Book, 2012

  • 3,478 cubic kilometres (km3) – the average annual water yield, that is, an estimate of Canada's supply of renewable freshwater, from 1971 to 2013. This volume is equivalent to 0.349 m3/m2 or a depth of 349 mm across the entire country.

Source: Human Activity and the Environment, 2016

How much water are Canadians using?

  • 3.2 billion cubic metres (m3) – the amount of water households used in 2013, down 7.6% from 2011.

Source: CANSIM, Table 153-0116

  • 69% - the proportion of households reporting that they drank primarily tap water at home in 2015, while 19% reported bottled water as the main type of drinking water at home.

Sources: The Daily - Households and the Environment Survey, 2015, December 16, 2016, and CANSIM Table 153-0063

  • 0.12 milligrams per litre (mg/L) - the national average concentration of fluoride in tap water in Canada, based on results from the fourth cycle (2014 and 2015) of the Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS). This is about 10 times lower than Health Canada's maximum acceptable concentration of 1.5 mg/L for fluoride in drinking water.

Source: The Daily - Canadian Health Measures Survey: Tap Water and Urine Fluoride Concentration Levels, 2014 to 2015

  • 5.1 billion m3 – the amount of potable water that drinking water plants produced in 2013, down 1% from 2011. Surface water sources, such as lakes and rivers, supplied 88% of the water, with groundwater and other sources making up the rest.
  • 466 litres – the average amount of potable water use per person per day in 2013, which accounts for residential, industrial, commercial and other uses of water provided by public utilities. This was down 4% from 485 litres per person per day in 2011.

Source: The Daily - Survey of Drinking Water Plants, 2013, June 19, 2015

  • $41 – the average amount Canadian households spent on bottled water in 2015.

Source: CANSIM, Table 203-0028

  • $373 – the average expenditure per household on water and sewage for principal accommodation in 2015.

Source: CANSIM table 203-0021

How much water are Canadian businesses using?

  • 34.7 billion m3 – the amount of water used by Canadian industries in 2013, up 8.3% from 2011.

Source: CANSIM, Table 153-0116

  • 30.2 billion m3 – the amount of water used by thermal-electric power producers, manufacturers and mines in 2013, up 8.1% from 2011. Thermal-electric power producers remained the country's dominant user, accounting for 84.9% of water use of these three industry groups.
    • 29.5 billion m3 – the amount of water discharge from these three industry groups in 2013.
  • $1.6 billion – the amount the three industry groups spent on water in 2013.

Source: The Daily - Industrial Water Survey, 2013, October 27, 2015

How much water are Canadian farms using?

  • 14,816 – the number of farms reporting irrigation use in 2011.

Source: Census of Agriculture, CANSIM, Table 004-0210

  • 1.7 billion m3 – the volume of water agricultural producers used to irrigate their crops in 2014.
  • 586,000 hectares – the area of land irrigated in 2014.

Source: The Daily - Agricultural Water Survey, 2014, September 9, 2015

Are we doing enough to conserve and protect water?

  • 51% - the proportion of households that had a low-volume toilet in 2015, compared to 47% in 2011.
  • 62% - the proportion of households that had a low-flow shower head in 2015, compared to 63% in 2011.
  • 43% - the proportion of households that had a water meter in 2015, compared to 39% in 2011.

Source: CANSIM, Table 153-0104

  • 82% - the proportion of households who lived in dwellings connected to municipal sewer systems, while 11% used private septic systems in 2015.

Source: Custom tabulation, Households and the Environment Survey, 2015

  • $853.4 million – the amount Canadian businesses spent on pollution abatement and control (end-of-pipe) of surface water in 2012. Another $364.1 million was spent on pollution prevention of surface water.

Source: CANSIM, Table 153-0054

  • $447 million – the amount manufacturers spent to treat wastewater in 2013, accounting for 37% of their total water costs. By comparison, the mining industry spent $80.6 million to treat wastewater in 2013, or 45% of their total water costs; and wastewater treatment cost thermal-electric power producers $11.9 million, representing 7% of their total water bills.

Sources: CANSIM, Tables 153-0076, 153-0097

Water's economic contributions

  • $907.4 million – sales of aquaculture products and services in 2015, up 23.4% from 2014.
  • $826.5 million – sales of finfish sales, which accounted for 91.1% of sales of aquaculture products and services in 2015, up 27.9% from 2014.
  • $165.9 million - the gross value added to the economy by the aquaculture industry in 2015, down 32.5% from 2014. The decrease was largely the result of rising operating expenses.

Source: Aquaculture Statistics, 2015

  • 14,500 – the number of Canadians working in the fishing industry in 2016. Another 3,700 worked in aquaculture.

Source: Labour Force Survey

For more information about this page or for help finding more data, contact Media Relations.

See features on many other subjects in By the numbers.

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