Keeping watch over Canadian water policy
The FLOW Monitor is a periodically published bulletin that provides analysis and perspective by FLOW members and guest commentators on key water issues and public policy solutions. Find individual articles below or view entire issues here.
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Robert Sandford | September 2022
The scale of the humanitarian crisis in Pakistan is unprecedented, with a third of the country under water, the UN warned on September 22. With more than 33 million people impacted, that represents 15 per cent of the total Pakistani population, said Dr. Palitha Mahipala, World Health Organization (WHO) Representative in the country.
Tom Axworthy | August 2022
The United States is Canada’s No. 1 foreign policy priority. But now we have a self-induced conflict over water because Canada refuses to use a bi-national international institution that is the envy of the world, writes Thomas Axworthy.
Canadians are starting to understand how bad it may get. Yet this should not really surprise anyone, especially government, as accelerating climate chaos, with consequences far beyond those early projections, is arriving as predicted, perhaps only earlier than expected. The connection between water and climate is deadly obvious in Canada and beyond.
Contributed from Living Lakes Canada | May 2022
Existing water monitoring networks are insufficient to track and understand these impacts, which is why Living Lakes Canada is implementing a coordinated water monitoring network in the Canadian Columbia Basin using an innovative methodology developed by senior hydrologists, climate change and ecosystem experts.
Water Security for Canadians| March 22, 2022
See the full recording of the World Water Day, including speakers from across Parliament, the United Nations, Global water Futures and more. Also available in French.
FLOW Members | Jan 2022
Formal Submission to Prime Minister Trudeau, Minister Freeland and Minister Guilbeault to include the Canada Water Agency in the 2022 budget.
Robert Sandford, Dr. Corrine Schuster-Wallace | Jan 2022
As the 50th anniversary of the signing of the ground-breaking Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and the 25th anniversary of the signing of a similar accord for the Mackenzie River Basin, the year 2022 is a special year for water in Canada. It could also Canada’s return global leadership in water management, technology and governance.
FLOW Roundtable at COP 26| November 5, 2021
See FLOW's panel discussion on the SIWI Water Stage at the United Nations COP 26.
FLOW recognizes that many people do not have the time to read through party platforms to understand the individual party’s takes on freshwater policy. To help with this, FLOW has gone through the official party platform documents and condensed the information as a resource to interested readers.
As the federal election enters the home stretch, it is worth taking a moment to reflect on the commitments that the major parties have made to protect Canada’s freshwater. FLOW has been advocating for better federal freshwater law and policy since we were established in 2008, so we wanted to know: What do the various party platforms say about key FLOW priorities?
Floods, droughts, fire, water unfit to drink – these are all increasingly common occurrences across Canada as stressed water supplies are subject to the extremes of climate change. The emergency alarms are ringing and a response that matches the urgency of the moment is needed. One promising development is the Canada Water Agency a good first step, and represents a proactive and sustainable approach. But there is no urgency – nearly two years after the 2019 election, it still does not exist in any form.
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the greatest threats to global health in the 21st century. AMR occurs when microorganisms become invulnerable to antimicrobials, such as antibiotics, at doses that should inhibit their growth or kill them. If we cannot contain antimicrobial-resistant organisms—and so far, we are losing that fight—many infections will no longer respond to medicines, making them difficult to treat or even deadly.
Earlier this year, FLOW hosted two University of Ottawa students to conduct research on the current state of Canadian freshwater management for the students' capstone course. Nidhi and Amit took this opportunity to analyze gaps in freshwater management and suggest ways the Canada Water Agency could fill these gaps.
The notion of a Canada Water Agency has captured the imagination of the freshwater community, but little is known about the Agency and what it could actually mean for water management across the country. In February 2021, a number of water organizations came together to craft a shared vision for the Agency.
A Framework for Watershed Organizations
Watershed organizations are generally considered ideal vehicles for promoting responsible local decision making. While they come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, building a framework based on the three pillars of science, policy, and service can help any watershed organization ensure it is best suited to the socio-hydrological system it is serving.
Les apports naturels, non régularisés sont le principal facteur qui détermine le niveau d’eau du lac Ontario et du fleuve Saint-Laurent; équilibrer les impacts amont-aval demeure un défi de tous les instants.
Environmental flows are critical to fish and all aquatic life, yet environmental flow protections across Canada are uneven, inconsistent, and often fall through the cracks of shared water management systems. Introducing new regulations under the Fisheries Act could help fill these gaps.
Recent research from the University of Victoria’s POLIS Water Sustainability Project offers insights and specific actions for a modernized land use and water planning regime in B.C., contending that integrated land and water planning matter now more than ever in our COVID-changed world.
Looking Back at the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration
The Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA) helped manage water on the prairies for 78 years before being dissolved in 2013. Now PFRA is back in the spotlight. In last month’s Speech from the Throne, the federal government stated their intention to restore some of PFRA’s lost water management capacity through a new Canada Water Agency.
Dr. Adam Jeziorski looks back at the history of acid rain policy in Canada and explains how, while forgotten, it is a problem that remains far from solved. Considered one of the great environmental success stories of the past few decades, acid rain continues to shape ecosystems around the world.
The rush to identify shovel-ready projects must not undermine the bigger opportunity to drive a clean and competitive economy. Investments in water infrastructure, rather than simply replacing aging assets, should prioritize sustainability, resilience, and innovation.
To create a better world, we have to see this moment – the ‘Great Pause’ – as a transformational moment for all life on Earth. To that end, a number of thinkers from across a range of disciplines have created a collaboration titled The Transformational Moment: Global Reset and the Future of Hope.
Alongside public health and economic stimulus measures, the federal government reaffirmed its commitment to establishing a Canada Water Agency in their Speech from the Throne. This is significant. A throne speech commitment demonstrates high priority under normal circumstances; in these extraordinary times, it is even more meaningful.
The International Watersheds Initiative is an excellent example of how the International Joint Commission (IJC) has been able to remain innovative and adapt to new water management scenarios. The story of the initiative helps shed light on the importance of the IJC and the direction it needs to go to remain effective in the 21st century.
The Mackenzie River Basin Board was a remarkable governance body when it was established 23 years ago and has proven its worth during that time. But the Board has been neglected and under resourced for far too long. Greater support and attention, as well as some key operational changes, will help ensure the Board is able to remain effective.
Nearly 13 years ago, a diverse group of water experts came together to publish a landmark report that made a compelling case to renew federal focus on freshwater. This group would eventually form FLOW. As we enter a new decade, we take a look back on what has changed – and what has remained the same – since FLOW's founding report was published.
Citizen science is not a new phenomenon. The practice of engaging the public in the collection and assessment of observations related to a particular scientific line of inquiry is a well-established and highly valued practice. But the present generation of citizen science departs from the past in a number of important - and largely positive - ways.
The potential release of 1.3 trillion litres of liquid tailings from the oil sands poses an imminent threat to the Athabasca River and the broader Mackenzie River basin beyond. The Mackenzie River Basin Bilateral Water Management Agreement provides an ideal mechanism for the governments of Alberta and Northwest Territories to work together on this issue.
The federal government has pledged to establish a new Canada Water Agency and has taken substantive steps to do so. FLOW members are encouraged by these developments and will be following this file closely. This article offers some initial thoughts and key considerations regarding establishment of the Canada Water Agency.
In the fall of 2017, an 11-member Blue Ribbon Panel (including two FLOW members) was convened to review Canada’s National Hydrological Service (NHS). The Panel’s final report provides advice and recommendations on ten major topics pertaining to the NHS and federal water policy more broadly
On November 26, 2019, British Columbia made history by becoming the first jurisdiction in Canada to pass legislation implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). This legislation will have significant legal and political implications for water governance and will be watched closely across the country.
High-mountain areas are unique environments that play a crucial role in water security. The High Mountain Summit, convened in Geneva by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in October 2019, provided a venue for experts from around the world to address data challenges that put high-mountain areas and downstream regions at risk.
Assessing "lake health" across Canada is critical to understanding ecosystem services and their vulnerability to human disturbances. The NSERC Canadian Lake Pulse Network (“LakePulse”) has undertaken an unprecedented Canada-wide assessment to examine how lakes have changed how they may change in the future.
Climate change is driving a dramatic increase in the frequency and severity of flood events on Manitoba's Red River. As a result, the “normal” that we used to design our flood protection works, our agricultural drainage systems, and other critical infrastructure is no longer a reliable guide.
The federal government’s primary freshwater legislation, the Canada Water Act, is nearly 50 years old and far removed from our current water reality. Modernizing the Act is critical to comprehensively redefining federal leadership and helping to prevent Canada’s emerging water crisis.