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Dr. John Pomeroy leads a team at the Peyto Glacier in Banff, AB. (Photo: Mark Ferguson, Global Institute for Water Security)

Canada Water Agency will help protect and sustain Canada’s water resources, say USask water scientists

The new Canada Water Agency—announced in the recent federal Throne Speech—is the first critical step toward transforming how water is managed across the country, said John Pomeroy, director of the University of Saskatchewan (USask)-led Global Water Futures (GWF) program.

“It is great to see policy development like this that is informed by scientific evidence,” said Pomeroy, who also holds the Canada Research Chair in Water Resources and Climate Change at USask. 

“In the face of climate change, Canada is facing new and intensifying water challenges that underscore the need for a new approach to freshwater management to keep our precious water resources safe, clean, and sustainable. The federal government has listened to water scientists across the country who have been urging swift action on this front.” 

Last year, GWF and its partners issued a public call to action, Water Security for Canadians: Solutions for Canada's Emerging Water Crisis, calling for modernization of Canada's water institutions, governance, policies and legislation to better address and prepare for increasingly extreme floods, droughts, fires and water pollution events.   

“Canada is the only G7 country without a national flood forecasting system,” said Pomeroy. “Governance of waterways is extremely fragmented in Canada. For instance, responsibility for river basins is often shared by many overlapping jurisdictions. And more than 20 federal departments and agencies share responsibility for freshwater across Canada.” 

This past summer, in support of efforts by Environment and Climate Change Canada and Agriculture and Agri-food Canada to consult with Canadians,GWF and its partners held national seminars to explore the need for a co-ordinated approach to address pressing water issues.  

Pomeroy highlighted four key goals that need to be addressed through the new agency:   

  • Mobilize data and knowledge to monitor, predict and solve water problems, including forecasting floods and droughts, water quality issues, harmful algae blooms, and future water supply and use 
  • Strengthen transboundary water management; 
  • Strengthen reconciliation with Indigenous peoples; and  
  • Improve collaborative river basin planning.   

The Canada Water Agency’s mandate, functions and enabling legislation should be co-developed with Indigenous Nations and in close collaboration with provincial and territorial governments, local authorities, water organizations, and the general public,” he said. 

Pomeroy also welcomed the Throne Speech commitment to “invest in reducing the impact of climate-related water disasters such as floods and wildfires” and make additional resiliency investments to meet the clean drinking water commitment in First Nations communities.” 

GWF, a research program led by the USask Global Institute for Water Security in partnership with the University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University and McMaster University, is funded by the Canada First Research Excellence Fund and involves 18 universities and hundreds of stakeholders in communities, government and industry across Canada.   

USask is ranked number one in Canada for water resources research (Academic Ranking of World Universities), and GWF is the most cited water research group in the world. More information is available at: https://gwf.usask.ca/ 

 

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