P. 1
Changing Currents: Water Sustainability and the Future of Canada’s Natural Resource Sectors

Changing Currents: Water Sustainability and the Future of Canada’s Natural Resource Sectors

|Views: 43|Likes:
National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (2010 Report)

In June 2010, the NRTEE released Changing Currents: Water Sustainability and the Future of Canada’s Natural Resource Sectors. This report provides a description of the relationship between Canada’s natural resource sectors and water, focusing on the current and emerging key water issues facing the sectors.

The world’s supply of freshwater is limited and finite. While Canada is blessed with an abundance of freshwater, an expected increase in the development of the natural resource sectors begs the question of whether our country has enough to support economic growth while also maintaining the health of our ecosystems. We need to know whether we are in a position to sustainably manage our water resources for future generations and if we have the capability to deal with issues like an anticipated change in precipitation patterns caused by climate change.

National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (2010 Report)

In June 2010, the NRTEE released Changing Currents: Water Sustainability and the Future of Canada’s Natural Resource Sectors. This report provides a description of the relationship between Canada’s natural resource sectors and water, focusing on the current and emerging key water issues facing the sectors.

The world’s supply of freshwater is limited and finite. While Canada is blessed with an abundance of freshwater, an expected increase in the development of the natural resource sectors begs the question of whether our country has enough to support economic growth while also maintaining the health of our ecosystems. We need to know whether we are in a position to sustainably manage our water resources for future generations and if we have the capability to deal with issues like an anticipated change in precipitation patterns caused by climate change.

More info:

Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

Availability:

Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less

05/13/2014

pdf

text

original

The challenge in ecosystem management is that ecosystem services do not function in isolation.

The services provided by ecosystems are interdependent and often interact in complex ways.

Decisions that negatively affect one aspect of an ecosystem will likely negatively affect others;

and likewise, those decisions that restore or improve one aspect of the ecosystem will almost

certainly have multiple benefts. For example, years of phosphorous pollution from sewage

treatment plants and agricultural runoff in Lake Erie caused a biological reaction that lowered

levels of dissolved oxygen in the bottom layers of the lake. The low levels of oxygen suffocate

many bottom-dwelling species, which provide food for other species. Long-term impacts cause a

decline in all lake species, which ultimately impairs the ability of the lake to provide clean water

for drinking, fsh, and recreational use.15

Careful monitoring and research of various components

of freshwater systems is required in order to recognize when key thresholds of resiliency have

been affected and to determine what decisions are required to reverse the changes.

Understanding the quantity and movement of water is a critical component of ecosystem

management. Removing or restricting the movement of water from groundwater, lakes,

wetlands, or rivers can impact the amount of oxygen in the system, water temperature, and

species composition, among other things. Knowing the water requirements to sustain a healthy

ecosystem — the “environmental fows” — is critical to water management. To understand

requirements for environmental fows, managers must frst have a basic knowledge of the

ecological functions provided by the watershed.

*

10

* The Brisbane Declaration is a non-binding commitment signed by more than 800 delegates from 57 countries, including Canada, in 2007. It

focuses on collaborative work to protect and restore the world’s rivers and lakes.

DEFINITION OF ENVIRONMENTAL FLOWS

As defned in the Brisbane Declaration,*

“environmental fows” describe the

quantity, timing, and quality of water fows required to sustain freshwater and

estuarine ecosystems and the human livelihoods and well-being that depend on

these ecosystems.16

40

CHANGING CURRENTS: WATER SUSTAINABILITY AND THE FUTURE OF CANADA’S NATURAL RESOURCE SECTORS

In Canada, governments in many parts of the country are responding to the concept of

environmental fows and acknowledge the interactions between water quality and quantity in

surface and groundwater at the watershed level.17

British Columbia is currently reviewing

regulatory tools to legislate environmental fow, and Québec’s Bill 27 (An Act to Affrm the

Collective Nature of Water Resources and Provide for Increased Water Resource Protection) provides
the legal grounds to restore a water body to its original or a similar state. Yet, no province, to

date, has legislated environmental fow protection measures. Canada has yet to develop a

widely-acceptable science-based policy framework to defne methods for determining

environmental fows to be used by provinces and complement the general provisions of the

federal Fisheries Act. Evidence and experience therefore point to the need for a national strategy

to address environmental fows.

Alberta’s Water Act provides an example of a provincial measure that enables the protection of

the aquatic environment in specifc watersheds, as witnessed in the Athabasca. The Act enables

the Crown to develop in-stream fow requirements and withhold up to 10% of fows through

the use of a water conservation objective if it is in the public interest. But specifcations for in-

stream fow requirements are not in themselves legislated.

A key challenge of managing watersheds is addressing not only individual impacts, but

cumulative ones as well. This requires current and future assessments of the sectors and other

users in consideration of the interdependency of cumulative stream uses, as well as groundwater

resources.18

The Mackenzie River Basin demonstrates this well, as it is affected by the upstream

development of oil sands on the Athabasca River and the Bennett Dam on the Peace River, and

could be further impacted if proposals for hydroelectric development move forward on the Slave

River. Governments of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories, and

Yukon recognized the need to work collaboratively to manage water and ecosystem requirements

of the Mackenzie River Basin and have been doing so since the 1970s.

Human use of water causes changes to natural systems, but much can be done to ensure that

alterations to freshwater fows don’t compromise the resiliency of the ecosystem.19

Decisions

about water allocation, the scale and placement of development, and the location, design, and

operation of in-stream infrastructure are all important aspects of sustainable water management.

Monitoring and assessment of measurements pertaining to hydrology, physical habitat, water

quality, and biological function are needed to inform management decisions and monitor changes

in the system.20

To determine what changes are acceptable requires judgment on the adequate

quantity, quality, and timing of fows in rivers required to maintain ecological resilience. As with

NATIONAL ROUND TABLE ON THE ENVIRONMENT AND THE ECONOMY

41

all quantitative assessments, historical measures based on consistent, reliable data and capacity

to assess and communicate results are required to address watershed trends. But ultimately, the

determination of ecosystem water requirements will involve societal decisions on the desired

condition of the ecosystem and water uses.21

By making environmental fows a key principle of

water policies, stakeholders at the watershed level will have fexibility to make societal judgments

about future water uses before those uses are in direct competition with ecosystem needs.

You're Reading a Free Preview

Download
scribd
/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->