The Canadian Myth of Abundance: Canadians’ water conservation efforts declining



While Canadians say they care about water conservation, their actions and levels of understanding miss the mark


Efforts to Save Water Going Down the Drain?

TORONTO, March 17, 2010 – Canadians’ efforts to save water appear to be going down the drain despite their reported concern about its availability, according to the third annual Canadian Water Attitudes Study, commissioned by RBC and Unilever and endorsed by the Canadian Partnership Initiative of the United Nations Water for Life Decade. 

While almost eight in ten (78 per cent) Canadians believe they try at least reasonably hard to conserve water, many admit to knowingly engaging in water wasting activities such as leaving the tap running when washing and rinsing dishes (44 per cent) and hosing down their driveways (19 per cent).    

To download a copy of the summary document, click on 2010 Canadian Water Attitudes Study


Disconnect Between Talk and Action

“There is an obvious disconnect between Canadians’ attitudes towards water Bob sandford (120p)conservation and what they’re actually doing,” says leading water expert Bob Sandford, Chair, Canadian Partnership Initiative of the UN Water for Life Decade. 

“Canadians say they are much more concerned about the availability and quantity of fresh water than any other natural resource, yet their efforts to conserve water are actually decreasing.  This should be a huge concern, given that we live in a society run by water and the long-term supply of this precious resource is already at risk in many parts of the country.”


Canadians More Concerned About Saving Electricity

The Canadian Water Attitudes Study also reveals that Canadians are more concerned with saving electricity than water. 

Nine in ten (87 per cent) say they try reasonably hard to conserve electricity in their daily activities, higher than the 78 per cent who say the same for water.  In addition, three in ten (29 per cent) don’t know what they pay for their water, three times the proportion who are in the dark about their electricity bill (10 per cent).

“These findings suggest that Canadians haven’t made the link between water and energy conservation,” says Sandford.  “What Canadians may not realize is that generating energy requires a lot of water, and moving water – to make it available for when and where we want it – in turn requires significant amounts of energy.  Until people make the link between the two, we won’t achieve anything approaching sustainability.”

Awareness of the correlation between energy and water might help Canadians set new targets for water consumption and adopt new behaviours to better manage water use.


Highlights of the Study: Additional Key Themes / Regional Trends

More Canadians are turning to their taps for drinking water

  • More Canadians (49 per cent) are drinking tap water this year than last (41 per cent)
  • More Canadians (79 per cent) are confident in the safety and quality of Canada’s drinking water this year, up slightly from last year (72 per cent)
  • Quebecers are less confident (68 per cent) in the safety of their water than other regions
  • Awareness of local government initiatives to conserve water are low (32 per cent), although awareness is higher in some regions such as B.C. (47 per cent) and Saskatchewan and Manitoba (38 per cent)
  • One quarter of Canadians (25 per cent) have no idea where the water that flows out of their taps comes from, with Quebecers most likely to admit that they don’t know (32 per cent)

Canadians are less concerned about Canada’s long-term supply of fresh water

  • Canadians are generally less concerned this year than last about the declining state of Canada’s natural resources
  • Yet half of Canadians still believe freshwater to be Canada’s most important natural resource (49 per cent)

Canadians are increasingly concerned about the quality of their lakes for swimming

  • Eight in ten (83 per cent) Canadians are concerned about the quality of water in lakes where they swim
  • Quebecers and Ontarians are the most likely to be concerned (87 per cent in both provinces)
  • Most Canadians (68 per cent) believe that the quality of their swimming lakes is getting worse


About the Survey

The 2010 Canadian Water Attitudes Study included an online survey administered by Ipsos Reid from February 17 to 23, 2010. It included a sample of 2,022 adult Canadians from the general population across Canada.

The results are considered accurate to within +/- 2.2 per cent, 19 times out of 20, of what the results would have been had the entire adult population in Canada been polled. The data were weighted by region, age and sex according to 2006 Census data.


About Canadian Partnership Initiative in support of the United Nations Water for Life Decade

The United Nations Water for Life Decade is a globally proclaimed decade for action on water quality and availability issues.

While each country in the world will be focusing on its own water quality and availability issues within the larger context of the global fresh water situation, the Canadian initiative has been defined by a nation-wide public and private sector partnership aimed at identifying and responding to regional and national water issues.

The United Nations Water for Life initiative in Canada exists to put Canadian water issues into a global context. The Canadian United Nations Water for Life partnership initiative is housed, and has its research home in the Western Watersheds Climate Research Collaborative at the University of Lethbridge. 

For more information about the Canadian partnership initiative in support of the United Nations Water For Life Decade visit


Posted March 2010