Canada’s Water Myth and Source Water Protection

Overall, Canada may be considered a freshwater-rich country: on an average annual basis, Canadian rivers discharge close to 9% of the world’s renewable water supply, while Canada has less than 1% of the world’s population.

While 20% of fresh water in all of the world’s lakes is in Canadian lakes, only 6.5% of the world’s renewable water supply is in Canada and 60% of Canada’s freshwater flows North to sub-arctic and arctic regions. More than twelve percent of Saskatchewan is covered by lakes and rivers! Canada has a relatively high amount of fresh water available per capita; however, this availability of fresh water varies dramatically by region. 

The South Saskatchewan River is the single largest supplier of water in Saskatchewan for drinking water, irrigation, industrial uses, and recreation,  with almost 50% of the provincial population in Saskatchewan relying on the South Saskatchewan River for their daily needs. It becomes clear that water is critical to all aspects of our lives and it is important that we ensure there is a safe and reliable source of water for all our uses – now and in the future. Drinking Water Source Protection is a resource planning process that aims to keep sources of drinking water safe and usable. 

The specific goal of protecting drinking water sources against contamination. The Walkerton tragedy contributed to the re‐shaping of drinking water policy across Canada. The Alberta Water Council defines Source water as “untreated, raw water from surface or groundwater sources used for drinking water or other uses.”  SWP is a risk management process designed to maintain or improve the conditions of water through proactive, collaborative identification, validation, assessment, and management of risk.

The Alberta Water Council recently released a Guide to Protecting Sources of Drinking Water in Alberta. According to this plan it “provides advice on how to protect drinking water sources through developing a Source Water Protection (SWP) plan. It is intended for drinking water providers (i.e., public, private, and individual) and should be used together with AWC’s Protecting Sources of Drinking Water in Alberta: Companion Document. Additional groups that may find this guide useful include municipalities, drinking water providers (utilities), Indigenous communities, Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils (WPACs), Watershed Stewardship Groups (WSGs), and other interested groups.” 

The South Saskatchewan River Watershed Stewards Inc. (SSRWSI) offer to assist interested communities who want to develop a source water protection plan. Please, feel free to contact Kerry at 306-460-4987 or info@southsaskriverstewards.ca for more information.