In April 2019, GWF and partners issued a public call to action, Water Security for Canadians: Solutions for Canada's Emerging Water Crisis. It called for modernization of Canada's water institutions, governance, policies and legislation to better address and prepare for the increasingly extreme floods, droughts, fires and water pollution events that are hammering our infrastructure and economy and affecting the well-being of millions of Canadians each year.

In late 2019, the Government of Canada announced the development of a Canada Water Agency to be co-led by the ministers of Environment and Climate Change and Agriculture and Agri-Food. The new agency is to work together with the provinces, territories, Indigenous communities, local authorities, scientists and others to find the best ways to keep our water safe, clean and well managed.

The Global Water Futures program and partners have convened national discussions on the future of water security in Canada, including the water management issues, capabilities, advances and needs, to help inform the federal government in its development of the Canada Water Agency.  

To support these conversations, GWF and partners have three recommendations to make the Canada Water Agency a reality - the first steps of a broader program of reforms to modernize federal freshwater leadership.

Building the Canada Water Agency

Établissement de l’Agence canadienne de l’eau

In January and February 2021, the Government of Canada hosted public consultations on their discussion paper Toward the Creation of a Canada Water Agency and the the Water Security for Canadians Initiative submitted a collective response:

Response to the Canada Water Agency Discussion Paper

En réponse au document de discussion sur l’Agence canadienne de l’eau



December, 2023

Report: The Future of Freshwater in Canada

The Future of Freshwater in Canada

Co-produced by the Forum for Leadership on Water, Massey College (University of Toronto) and the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health. This report outlines the discussions had during the September Symposium on Freshwater hosted by FLOW and Massey College which brought together water experts from across Canada to discuss the future of freshwater governance, legislation and financing in Canada.



March 22, 2022

A Water Forum In Recognition of World Water Day

Canada is facing a water crisis that can only be addressed through strong multi-scale national collaboration and co-ordination, especially with respect to monitoring, forecasting, and research.

On the United Nation's World Water Day (March 22nd), an internationally recognized day of action on water, we had an opportunity to reflect on the strengths, challenges, and opportunities that comprise Canada's water futures. The Water Security for Canadians consortium, comprising the Global Water Futures (GWF) program, University of Saskatchewan, the Forum for Leadership on Water (FLOW), the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources, the POLIS Water Sustainability Project, and UN University Institute for Water, Environment and Health, hosted an event as part of World Water Day activities.

Keynote speakers included:

Terry Duguid, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Dr. Shamila Nair-Bedouelle, Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences Programme at UNESCO

High-Level Panel:

Elizabeth May MP, Francis Scarpaleggia MP, Dan Mazier MP, Laurel Collins MP, Linda Debassige Chief M'Chigeeng First Nation, Monique Pauzé MP

Water Knowledge Panel:

Dr. John Pomeroy of Global Water Futures. Dr. dawn martin-hill of McMaster University, François de Gaspé Beaubien of Zoom Media and the Fondation de Gaspé Beaubien Foundation, Dr. Corinne Wallace of Global Water Futures, Merrell-Ann Phare of Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources, Inc. and Forum for Leadership on Water

Facilitated by Dr. Annette Trimbee of MacEwan University and Robert Sandford of The United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH)

   A Water Forum in Recognition of World Water Day image



March 2022

Policy Documents - Canadian Coalition for Healthy Waters

GWF is proud to to provide advice to the development of these documents; they clearly reflect the outcomes developed in the Water Security for Canadians initiative.

March 8, 2021

International Opportunities and Responsibilities for the Canada Water Agency

International Opportunities and Responsibilities for the Canada Water Agency was a 90-minute national webinar that included perspectives from GWF water and climate scientists, the private sector, and international experts. The webinar featured Dr. Shamila Nair-Bedouelle, Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences at UNESCO and The Honourable Bob Rae, Ambassador and Permanent Representative-Designate of Canada to the United Nations, on how Canada can strengthen its role at the UN. Tom Axworthy led a panel of guests through a discussion on how a modern and leading Canada Water Agency can support Canadian business growth overseas and provide opportunities to meet international development responsibilities.

Discussion Summary

December 10, 2020

Designing the Canada Water Agency: What We Have Heard

Designing the Canada Water Agency: What We Have Heard was a 90-minute national webinar that presented highlights of GWF’s virtual engagement series How Can the Canada Water Agency Ensure Water Water Security for Canadians. The event included the insights heard from GWF water and climate scientists, water governance and policy experts, Indigenous knowledge holders, and water managers in federal, provincial, territorial and municipal agencies. The webinar featured Parliamentary Secretary for the Canada Water Agency, Terry Duguid, M.P., and moderator Tom Axworthy lead a panel of guests through a discussion what is still needed in order to realize a modern and leading Agency necessary to ensure water security for all, for all generations.

Supporting Materials

Report: Designing the Canada Water Agency: What We Have Heard

Designing the Canada Water Agency: What We Have Heard

Creation de l'agence canadienne de l'eau Ce que nous avons entendu



October 13, 2020

Part 1: The Canada Water Agency and the Province of Québec

A panel of Quebéc-based water experts and organizations discussed the proposed role and functions planned for the new Canada Water Agency and explored recommendations for water governance.

Part 2: The Canada Water Agency’s Role in Raising Awareness of Water Issues Among Canadians

This webinar brought together a panel of experts and organizations to highlight the various awareness campaigns on water issues carried out in Québec, while presenting lessons learned and key elements in the success of public awareness campaigns.



September 17, 2020

This Is How Canada Can Use Innovation and Data to Protect Its Fresh Water

This panel session featured a group of distinguished panelists who explored how data systems and technology could improve our management of freshwater systems and foster innovation in the water tech sector—all while strengthening community engagement. Discussions included examples of water data excellence, opportunities and needs in Canada and how a new Canadian Water Agency could support ongoing work while furthering innovation and success.




September 10, 2020

Designing the Canada Water Agency for Successful Co-development and Collaboration with Indigenous Peoples

This 2-hour national webinar featured highlights of GWF Indigenous-led water quality research and tools; a one-on-one interview with Michael Miltenberger, former Minister of Environment and Natural Resources for NWT; and a moderated panel of experienced Indigenous water leaders and knowledge holders who  discussed how to design the Canada Water Agency for more inclusive water science, information, governance, and management decisions that respect Indigenous peoples’ goals, self-determination, and inherent and treaty water rights and responsibilities.

Event Details

Supporting Materials

Considerations Paper

Resetting the National Sail: A Considerations Paper on Indigenous Governance and the Canada Water Agency




June 25, 2020

Virtual Workshop: Agriculture Considerations for the Canada Water Agency

Featuring the Honourable Ralph Goodale, the 2-part virtual workshop brought together GWF scientists and agriculture and water management professionals to discuss how the creation of a Canada Water Agency could help support sustainable management of agricultural waters and management of water for agriculture in Canada. GWF presented the latest agricultural water scientific advances and capabilities from projects and we heard from a panel of experts on program, policy, and governance needs to support an effective Canada Water Agency. Breakout sessions provided participants with an opportunity to offer perspectives, synergies and implementation ideas that will form a submission to the Government of Canada's Canada Water Agency engagement process. 




May 13, 2020

National Water Policy Panel

On May 13th we brought together over 600 professionals in the water community including government agencies, universities, community-based and Indigenous organizations, and industries across the country for a virtual discussion of these ideas. The National Water Policy Panel was chaired by Dr. Thomas Axworthy of Massey College, and featured Terry Duguid, MP and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and six experts in water science and governance. The discussion explored Canadian water issues and how a Canada Water Agency can contribute solutions, including leadership to mobilize knowledge needed to monitor, predict and solve water problems; strengthen transboundary water management; strengthen reconciliation with Indigenous peoples; and improve collaborative river basin planning between all governments.

Supporting Materials

Draft White Paper: Modernizing Federal Freshwater Leadership

A Water Security for Canadians Initiative White Paper developed to support the creation of a Canada Water Agency. This is a living document and is intended to generate discussion. We welcome feedback to help refine and strengthen the recommendations for modernizing water management in Canada.

English Français

Canada Water Agency Engagement Portal

Speaking publicly for the first time about his government's intent to create the Canada Water Agency, Terry Duguid also announced a new Government of Canada engagement portal, encouraging participants to help shape the new institution’s mandate, role, form, and legislation and policy reform needs.



April 11, 2019

Water Security for Canadians Strategic briefing and discussion

This inaugural Water Security for Canadians Initiative event in Ottawa brought together Canada's top water and climate scientists, policy experts, legislators, and water decision rights holders and stakeholders. Panelists spoke to the scientific evidence of the worsening water sustainability and climate-related water crisis in Canada, and the science and policy solutions needed to adapt to the new climate and water realities across the country. The event began with opening remarks by the Honourable Ralph Goodale, then Canada's Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Member of Parliament for Regina- Wascana. What resulted was a timely discussion on how to create a better, safer and more secure water world for ourselves and for our children, while positioning Canada as an international leader in global water security expertise, science, prediction and advice. 




Supporting Materials

This strategic briefing and discussion built off the concept note developed through the collaborative effort Water Security for Canadians Initiative. The document outlines how the federal government can provide leadership and better exercise its jurisdiction to help prevent Canada's emerging water crisis. It proposes a number of specific and achievable activities that will position Canada as a global leader in water prediction, management and sustainability.



Related Webinars

Water Security for Canadians: Making the Federation Work for Water

This POLIS webinar explores how the federal government can provide leadership and better exercise its jurisdiction to help prevent Canada’s emerging water crisis. The speakers outline a number of specific, achievable activities that could position Canada as a global leader in water prediction, management, and sustainability.

The Massey Dialogues — Dr. Thomas Axworthy and Dr. John Pomeroy on Water Security

Massey College Principal Nathalie Des Rosiers hosted Senior Fellow and Chair of the Public Policy Program Dr. Thomas Axworthy, in conversation with Dr. John Pomeroy, Director of Global Water Futures Programme at the University of Saskatchewan. They were joined by Junior Fellow Isaac Gazendam, who is pursuing his JD at the Faculty of Law. Click below for more information or to view the recording.

The Impact of Climate Change on Canada’s Snow and Ice Resources

This webinar is part of a series on Water and Climate Change hosted by the Canadian Water Resources Association for World Water Day 2020.



Water Security for Canadians Initiative Partners

The Water Security for Canadians Initiative is a collaboration of scientists and policy experts who have come together to analyze Canada's emerging water crisis, and to chart a path forward to ensure water security for all Canadians. Drawing together a wide range of experience from across the country, the Initiative leverages world class science and policy expertise to propose solutions that strengthen cooperative federalism in the context of water governance and management, with specific attention to enhancing the role of the federal government

Global Water Futures

GWF is the largest university-led research program in the world and is a partnership between University of Saskatchewan, University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University and McMaster University. The leading-edge scientific program is delivering risk management solutions to manage water futures in Canada and other cold regions where global warming is changing landscapes, ecosystems, and the water environment.

John Pomeroy, Monica Morrison, Chris DeBeer, Phani Adapa

Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources

CIER is Canada’s first and only Indigenous-directed environmental non-profit charitable organization. We use and value traditional, local, and Western science methods, and work across political boundaries and cross-cultural settings on environmental issues, recognizing and respecting Indigenous rights. CIER focuses on meeting Indigenous nations' needs, as they define them to support and build sustainable Indigenous communities and protect lands and waters.

Merrell-Ann Phare, Michael Miltenberger

Forum for Leadership on Water

FLOW is an independent, non-partisan group of policy experts from across Canada, including past political leaders, former officials with federal and provincial governments, and senior staff of respected research institutes and non-governmental organizations. FLOW supports efforts to secure the health of Canada’s fresh water by providing ongoing, independent expert analysis and perspectives on water policy in Canada.

Richard Farthing-Nichol, Ralph Pentland

POLIS Water Sustainability Project, Centre for Global Studies, University of Victoria

POLIS is a University-based "think tank" focused on law and institution research, reform and action. Achieving water sustainability requires innovative law, policy, and governance solutions and we develop cutting-edge research to improve freshwater decision-making and management.  By combining practical expert research with community action and deep partnerships, our team works to increase understanding of freshwater issues and to drive law, policy, and governance reform to generate change towards a sustainable freshwater future.

Oliver M. Brandes

United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health

UNU-IWEH responds directly to the regional and global water crisis and facilitates efforts to meet UN Sustainable Development Goals by providing a scientific evidence base. UNU-INWEH carries out its work in cooperation with other research institutions, international organizations, individual scholars, and scientists throughout the world.

Robert William Sandford