Transcript of the chat session on Human Activity and the Environment: Freshwater, water use and World Water Day, which occurred on Friday, March 24, 2017 from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. EST

Note: This was a bilingual chat session, which means that the participants were able to submit their questions in English or French. Statistics Canada respects the Official Languages Act and is committed to ensuring that information products of equal quality are available in both English and French. For that reason, all the questions and answers have been translated in the other official language.

 Moderator at 13:58:43
Welcome everyone! This is a bilingual chat session, which means that you can submit your questions in English or French. Our experts will respond in a timely manner and in the official language in which the question was asked.

 wandreef at 14:02:09
Hi, Why was Hydroelectric power generation left out of the report? Is that information in another report?

 Jennie Wang at 14:09:34
Hydro-electric power generation uses vast amounts of water. Data on water use for hydro-power production are not aggregated with other water uses and we do not regularly publish these estimates. In the report Human Activity and the Environment, 2010, we estimated that water use for hydro-electric power production was in the range of 3 trillion cubic metres.

 sjdobson at 14:04:26
General question. I haven't read any of your documentation. How do you gather information on industrial and agricultural water use? Provinces own the water and permit the water use. Sometimes the water diversion and return is monitored as part of permitting. So provinces get some reports on actual use. Sometimes not. Do you use provincial permitting data? Either the list permits or the actual data.

 François Soulard at 14:10:10
Hello sjdobson,
We have surveys that gather information on industrial and agricultural water use; we ask the industrial establishments and the farmers themselves how much water they use. We do not use permitting data, as these are not indicative of the actual use of water.

 sjdobson at 14:14:37
I mean the annual actual use and return flow reports associated with some permits. But you are saying you don't use provincial regulatory data. Do you verify a portion of your survey data?

 François Soulard at 14:23:12
Hi again,
We actually use some provincial data, for example in the case of agricultural water use data, where, for example, we use the province of Alberta's agricultural water data to verify our own survey data. Note that in our agricultural water use report, we don't report back on agricultural return flows, whereas we report back on industrial water discharge.   

 SM Guru at 14:15:31
Hello, If 69% of Canadians tap water and 19% drink drink bottled water, what does the last 12% drink? Thanks!

 Jennie Wang at 14:24:30
Thanks for your question. In 2015, 69% of households reported that they primarily used tap water, 19% primarily used bottled water, 10% reported both tap and bottled water as their primary source of drinking water and 1% reported "other type of water" as their primary type of drinking water, according to the Households and the Environment Survey.

 Moderator at 14:15:21
Keep your questions coming!

 koricemoir at 14:19:23
I am looking for specifics on untreated sewage entering Canadian waters across years, and percentage of water bodies with algal blooms, if available. Also, are there comparisons available on water quality improvements over time? Thank you.

 Jennie Wang at 14:31:07
Hi Koricemoir, thanks for your question. In section 3 of our report, Human Activity and the Environment, you will find a reference to the Government of Canada's Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement. According to this document, in 2012, over 3,700 wastewater systems in Canada generated an estimated 6 trillion litres of wastewater, of which over 150 billion litres may have been untreated.
The report does not provide information on the percentage of water bodies with algal blooms or provide comparisons on water quality improvements over time. For the latter, I would recommend you check out Environment and Climate Change Canada's website, particulary the CESI indicators.

 bulleju at 14:15:36
How many litres of freshwater does Canada use each day for fracking and fossil fuel extraction?

 François Soulard at 14:33:28
Hello bulleju,
In 2013, 382 million m3 of water were used in petroleum and gas extraction. Although the oil and gas industry reuses much of its water intake, most of this water is consumed. For example, it can be lost in the form of steam, injected into oil reserves or held in tailings ponds after use.

 SM Guru at 14:21:50
How do you define freshwater?

 Mark Henry at 14:33:47
Thanks for the question, SM Guru.
Freshwater is defined as water having a low concentration of dissolved salts. This definition is from the glossary of our newly released report, Freshwater in Canada.

 wandreef at 14:17:12
Will there ever be data on water use in indigenous communities? It seems that this an important metric and relevant details should be available for indigenous communities and all Canadians. There ar eover 600 communites across Canada. On another matter for some reason I can't download the GIS data for this report and I can't view the entire report and download it. Is there a problem with the web site?

 Jennie Wang at 14:40:03
Data on water use in Indigenous communites are produced by Aboriginal and Northern Development Canada. You can find information on this topic here.
We are experiencing intermittent problems with the website and would be happy to email you the PDF after this session if you are not able to download it. The GIS data may be similarly affected. However, the files are now also available as web services from the Government of Canada's Open Maps page. See: Average annual runoff in Canada and Drainage regions of Canada.

 SM Guru at 14:17:09
Are we doing enough to conserve and protect water?

 Mark Henry at 14:40:47
That's an interesting question, SM Guru, but policy questions of this sort are not covered in our report or as a topic in this chat.

 liangpe at 14:26:43
Why is this study important?

 François Soulard at 14:41:21
Hello Liangpe,
Thank you for this question! The study draws a link between the amount of water generated by the natural environment and the water used for household and economic activities. The study presents data over a span of time for the entire country. It helps us to understand the diverse uses of water across Canada over time and to identify not only potential problems, but also improvements, such as a 16% decrease in the use of water by households between 2005 and 2013.

 koricemoir at 14:26:38
I am looking for data on boil water advisories. Does latest report provide information on drinking water advisories, or reference First Nations water health issues? I have come across Gov of Canada information here: Drinking water advisories: First Nations south of 60, but looking for any updates, or additional information available. Thank you.

 François Soulard at 14:44:32
Hello Koricemoir,
Our report does not deal with that question. We look at water from the supply and demand perspective, with less information on water quality issues. We will get back to you next week with more information.  

 odumville at 14:18:24
Good afternoon. Thank you for the opportunity to ask questions! Does your water use data differentiate between surface water use and groundwater use? Similarly, does the water use data differentiate between water returned (e.g., much of hydroelectric water use) and water consumed (e.g., much of agricultural water use)? And if we do track the latter, do we also track where the water is taken from and where the water is returned to (e.g., taken from a groundwater source and returned to a surface water body)?

 Jennie Wang at 14:47:14
Hi odumville. Thanks for your question.  Our Industrial Water Survey does include all the variables you listed in your question -- we survey the Manufacturing, Mining and Thermal-Electric Power Generation industries on their water use and disposal. We do differentiate between surface and groundwater sources as well as where the water is returned to.  We also ask about treatment types for both intake water and disposed water. 
Regarding Agricultural Water Use, we also survey irrigation methods used by Canadian farms that irrigate. For that survey we do ask about the sources of water used for irrigation. 
Unfortunately, we do not collect any information on hydroelectric water use.

 SM Guru at 14:44:42
How do you measure the depth of lakes?

 François Soulard at 14:48:16
Hello SM Guru,
We do not measure the depth of lakes. The data we publish are gathered from other government departments.

 koricemoir at 14:39:50
What was one thing that surprised/intrigued/concerned you the most about the data gathered in this latest report? Thank you for organizing this chat. Your work is valued, and much appreciated. Thank you for all that you do for Canadian freshwater.

 Jennie Wang at 14:49:32
Thank you for participating. There are many interesting aspects of this report. In particular, I think people might be interested to know that household water use has decreased over time from about 330 litres per person per day in 2005 to approximately 250 litres per day in 2013.

 liangpe at 14:25:16
Canada is blessed with so much freshwater! What would say to those that think that there is no need to conserve water because we have so much of it in this country?

 Mark Henry at 14:51:31
Thanks liangpe. A good question, but beyond the scope of our report and the chat session. However there are many aspects of the report that give statistics on the differences in the supply of renewable freshwater across the country. There are many statistics in the report that give information on the variability of the supply of water yield across the country, and Map 2.1 may be of particular interest to you.

 bulleju at 14:32:08
Are there any regions in particular across Canada that are more susceptible to droughts? Are Canadians (farmers or communities) at risk in these areas?

 Mark Henry at 14:53:46
That's an interesting question, bulleju, but we don't cover droughts or at-risk areas specifically in this report. However you might be interested in Map 2.2 and Map 2.7 in our report Freshwater in Canada. Map 2.2 shows the water yield variability index from 1971 to 2013 in Canada's 25 drainage regions, where we can see that water yield is most variable in the Prairie regions. Map 2.7 shows the ratio of surface water intake to water yield.

 koricemoir at 14:49:17
Appreciate the focus on water supply and demand. Where might I find more information on the percentage area that experienced drought? Or, if/where tracked, water bodies that experienced major flooding?

 François Soulard at 14:58:06
Hello again!
You can find an online application on the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada website that allows users to map areas in drought. It is quite interesting. We do, however, present a map of water variability in our publication, which shows the areas that are more prone to floods and drought (see Map 2.2).

 koricemoir at 14:53:09
Looking at table 3.19.3 on selected indicators of pressures on water quality in Great Lakes drainage region. Is there more up to date info on nitrogen and phosphorus post 2011? Thank you.

 Mark Henry at 15:03:39
koricemoir, more nitrogen and phosporus information will be coming with the release of data from the 2016 Census of Agriculture. These data will be released by Statistics Canada and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in different forms. In addition Environment and Climate Change Canada releases nitrogen and phosphorus data from the National Pollution Release inventory on a ongoing basis in addition to provinical data.

 koricemoir at 14:58:38
Thank you

 Moderator at 15:03:09
The chat session is now over. Thank you for your questions and comments! If our experts did not have a chance to respond to your question, we will follow-up with you by email in the next few business days. The full transcript of this chat session will be made available on our website shortly. Have a great day!

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