Survey of Canada’s Drinking Water

Statistics Canada recently released the results of its most recent survey of water plants, a survey that reveals detailed information about Canada’s water users and water usage. The data provides useful information for the various stakeholders in the interconnected world of those of us who work together for water.

The full 2011 Survey of Drinking Water Plants runs over 60 pages and includes data on who uses how much of what kinds of water, water sources and the quality of water sources, and the costs of operating and maintaining water plants. The information in the survey can help guide decisions in various sectors of the water industry.

Survey Highlights

The full survey features many interesting data tidbits, far too many to go over in depth here. We encourage those interested to dig into the data, but in this post, we’ll focus on a few key highlights.

First and foremost, the demand for potable water is decreasing. According to the report, drinking water plants supplied 5,103 million cubic litres of potable water in 2011, down 9 percent from 2007. Residential customers consume the majority of that water, followed by industrial, commercial, institutional and non-residential users. Interestingly, 18 percent of water volume isn’t attributable to a specific sector.

Another key piece of data tells us the source of all this water. The vast majority of water consumers, 89 percent or 25 million Canadians, get their water from surface sources. The turbidity of untreated surface water sources is higher in the interior than on either the east or west coasts, an interesting difference for those tasked to build, operate or design treatment facilities.

The water infrastructure in the country received about $1,336 million in upgrades in 2011 as well. This figure includes money spent on upgrades, additions and expansions to the water treatment and delivery systems. Another $882 million was spent on operation and maintenance costs for the acquisition and treatment of water.

Putting Information to Use

Data gleaned from the Survey of Drinking Water Plants can help inform each sector of professional who work for water every day.

  • Environmental Authorities: The survey includes a great deal of information on water quality broken down by region and the water source. Those who monitor and regulate our water usage can use the data to make decisions about regulations for those regions and for the different sources.
  • Utilities and Industry: This group puts up the funds for capital improvements, additions and expansions. The data in the survey can help this group target funds to projects that will have the most impact for a region or specific type of water user and keep track of what has been spent in the past.
  • Consulting Engineers: The survey data includes interesting information about what design and projects could help address ongoing water concerns, such as turbidity or the presence of E. coli in untreated water. The information also provides rich data on water quality, an ongoing concern for any project.
  • Manufacturers and Suppliers: This group will lead the way in innovating new technology to address the issues affecting water quality and water delivery. They have a unique interest in the quality of water at its source in order to develop the right treatment systems to deliver safe water to customers.
  • Contractors: The economic impact of capital water projects won’t be lost on contractors, who make their living off of the capital improvements on ongoing maintenance of water treatment facilities.
  • Operators: A good portion of the data will be of interest to operators who manage the water systems day in and day out. The information on average water volume by month and average daily use by region. The ongoing operations and maintenance costs should interest operators as well since these numbers directly reflect their daily work.

Water data might not make the front page of the newspaper anytime soon, but the data the 2011 Survey of Drinking Water Plants provides can help everyone involved in water delivery make better, more informed decisions. Knowledge is power, and knowledge about water use can help us all work together for water