|Priority 2 – Responding to the Impacts of Climate Change and Energy Production
- Build Resilience to Climate Change Impacts on Water
- Ensure Energy Developments Consider Freshwater Ecosystems
Our nation’s water resources are experiencing some of the earliest effects of the climate crisis. Warming between 1900 and 2003 has led to reduced snowfall in the west and earlier spring runoff across the country. Future projections indicate earlier melting of snowpack in the western mountains, increasing winter and spring runoff, and a substantial decrease in summer flows. Lower water levels and flows will compromise water quality, while water temperatures will increase, shortening ice cover on lakes and intensifying oxygen depletion. Without action to respond to the impacts of climate change, the environmental, social, and economic impacts will be truly profound.
Development of the Alberta oil sands is a major threat to the Athabasca River basin and the Peace-Athabasca Delta. If oil sands development continues along a business-as-usual path, streams and tributaries will dry up, aquifers will be exhausted or polluted, and fish habitat will continue to disappear. Other forms of energy production also have significant implications for freshwater. Hydropower generation is often presented as a green alternative but it can have serious impacts on freshwater ecosystems. Approximately 64% of the water withdrawn in Canada is for thermal—coal, natural gas, and nuclear—power generation.
Action 5: Assist Communities in Preparing for Droughts and Floods.
- Work with provinces, territories and communities to formalize effective drought and flood planning, and provide assistance to municipalities for emergency planning.
- Renew the Flood Damage Reduction Program and invest in infrastructure renewal that reduces vulnerability of communities to extreme flooding, for example by relocating vital infrastructure out of flood prone locations.
Action 6: Mainstream Climate Change into Water Policies.
- Integrate the impacts of the climate crisis into all aspects of freshwater management. As well as providing strong standalone actions, this blueprint should be viewed as a comprehensive strategy for responding to the impacts of climate change on water.
Action 7: Work with Alberta to Implement Water Use Targets in the Oil Sands.
- Through the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, assist the Alberta government in establishing a hard cap for water allocations based on sustaining instream flows for healthy aquatic ecosystems.
- Work with the Alberta government to set mandatory water use targets for the oil sector to ensure compliance with the cap and to drive innovation in water conservation by the oil sector.
Action 8: Strengthen the Environmental Assessment Process.
- Utilize the full potential of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act process by assessing the impacts of all proposed developments at the watershed scale. Adopt a precautionary approach to energy development that addresses cumulative impacts on the watershed, and prevents dislocation of river basins, destruction of natural flows, and contamination of aquatic habitats.
Go to Priority Two resources.