7.4.1 Individuals, Families, Households


7.4.1  Individuals, Families, Households

How You Can Make Choices That Treat the Earth Well

Water Use and Climate Change

Fresh Water is a Precious Resource

In Canada, our vast supply of clean water is one of the most important contributors to our health, as well as to transportation, industry, power generation, and irrigation for agriculture. In thinking about climate change, it is important to consider the effects of a changed warmer, dryer climate on our water supply.

Worldwide, fresh water is a precious resource for the global population of more than six billion people. But all the freshwater lakes, rivers, and underground aquifers make up only 3.5% of the world’s water! The rest of the Earth’s water is present in salty ocean and sea water, and glaciers and ice caps.

The Great Lakes system is the largest fresh-water system in the world. Currently, only 1% of the water in all of the lakes is replaced every year. That means that if we use more than 1% of the water, lake levels drop.

Climate change, bringing warmer weather for more days of the year, may contribute to lowering the water levels in the Great Lakes. Why is this important?


  • 25% of Canada’s overall population lives in the Great Lakes Basin.
  • 45% of Canada’s industries are located around the Great Lakes.

If the water levels go down, what is affected?

  • Drinking Water Lower water levels can affect the ability of the water intakes in the lakes the draw in drinking water. Warmer temperatures can also encourage the growth of microbes and algae, lessening drinking water quality.
  • Hydro-Electric Power – When the Great Lakes water levels drop, there is less pressure to generate hydro-electric power (one of our most important sources of electricity).
  • Shipping When the water is shallower, ships have to lessen their cargo loads to float higher. This means more trips with lighter loads, and increased shipping costs.
  • Waterfront Properties and Facilities – Lower water levels can lessen erosion and flooding for waterfront properties, but may cause more difficult access to the water for marinas, small boat launches and recreational facilities.
  • Wildlife and Habitat Long-term changes in water levels in coastal habitats such as wetlands and rivers can cause habitat loss for fish, birds and other species that depend on access for food and breeding grounds.

Personal Water Use How Much do We Use?

Canadians use an average 326 litres of water a day! That makes about 26,000 litres per household per month, · or a per person average of 118,889 litres per year. 

And our water consumption is going UP!

Between 1972 and 1991, Canada’s withdrawal of freshwater resources increased from 24 billion cubic metres per year to over 45 billion cubic metres per year a rise of 80%: in the same period, the population increased only 3%.

Source: Environment Canada

Source: Canadian Geographic http://www.canadiangeographic.ca/Magazine/MJ00/Water/water_use.asp

Because water is plentiful in Canada, we rank as the second highest-users of water in the world. And because water has always been inexpensive, we have not had to give too much thought to limiting our use of this precious resource. The principal household uses of water are:

  • Showers and baths
  • Toilet flushing
  • Laundry
  • Cooking, drinking and kitchen use
  • Housecleaning
  • Garden watering
  • Car washing

Why Water Efficiency?

Less water use 

= Less energy use

= Decreased contributions to climate change

Treating water to make it clean and safe to drink and then pumping it to households, office buildings, factories and school takes a considerable amount of energy. More energy is then needed to treat the wastewater that goes down the drain. It is estimated that Canadian cities use approximately 750 MJ (mega-joules) of energy per year per Canadian to collect, purify, distribute and treat water.

Conserving water, therefore, means conserving energy and the energy-generating fuels associated with climate change.

Building water and sewage systems is an expensive undertaking. Water conservation helps to use existing water systems more efficiently, conserving the energy that would be needed to expand them if water demand were to grow beyond the capacity of present-day facilities.

What Helps Conserve Water?


  • Use Water Meters in Homes They Save Water! – In 1994, Canadian households paying for water by volume used 263 litres per person per day compared to the 450 litres per person per day used in households paying a flat rate a 39% savings.
  • Take baths instead of showers A long bath uses less water than a short shower! A shower uses 11 to 20 litres per minute.
  • Install Low-Flow Shower Heads they save lots of water (for an average 35 litres per five-minute shower, instead of 100 litres with a standard showerhead).
  • Check for leaks, and fix them promptly.
  • Keep cool water in the fridge it will save running water and time, and be more refreshingly cold
  • Be sparing in lawn and garden watering and make a transition to drought-tolerant plants, shrubs and trees saves water over time
  • Use Watersaving appliances or settings
  • Run dishwashers and washing machines only when full

For More Water Saving Tips!·

Visit the Ontario Government Green Tips site www.ene.gov.on.ca/cons/3780-e.htm

Links and Resources

Water Use in Canada, Environment Canada

Water Use by Region – A table which shows that Ontario water use compared to that of other Canadian regions

Water Awareness: Using Water Efficiently. A website on World Water Day

Ontario Green Tips Save Water Around the Home

Helping Reduce Water Consumption: A Case Study from Barrie, Ontario

Climate Change and Water Natural Resources Canada

Teachers’ Guide available from Natural Resources Canada

Canadian Water Issues and Facts

Canada Water Facts



  1. a) How does climate change affect the level of water in the Great Lakes?
    b) Name 3 ways this a problem for people who live along the Great Lakes?
  2. Why is it is important that each person should use the less water?
  3. List 5 ways that you can reduce the amount of water you use.