Residential water use in Canada indicator: data sources and methods, chapter 2

2. Description and rationale of the Residential Water Use in Canada indicator

2.1 Description

The Residential Water Use in Canada indicator reports the percentage of Canadian households with water meters and per capita residential water use in Canada from 1991 to 2011.

2.2 Rationale

Households are the largest users of municipal water services in Canada, accounting for 43%, or 2196 million cubic metres, of municipal water use in 2011.Footnote 1 In comparison, industrial, commercial, institutional and other non-residential uses combined used 1092 million cubic metres, or 21%, of the municipal water supply. Losses from the distribution system, such as leakage, accounted for another 673.3 million cubic metres (13%) of the volume produced. The remaining 22% comprised wholesale transfer to other jurisdictions (212.3 million cubic metres, or 4%) and unknown use (930.1 million cubic metres, or 18%).Footnote 2

Municipalities generally adopt one of two basic rate structures to price water services: flat rates where consumers pay a flat fee for water services regardless of the volume of water used; and volume-based rates where the amount paid for water services depends on the amount of water used. Volume-based pricing requires households to have water meters so water usage can be measured. Household metering and volume-based pricing increase consumer awareness of water usage and provide an incentive to conserve water, reducing household water demand for Canada's freshwater resources. For example, in 2009, Canadian households with meters on volume-based water pricing schemes used 73% less water than unmetered households on flat-rate water pricing schemes.Footnote 3

2.3 Recent changes to the indicator

Until 2012, the data used for the Residential Water Use in Canada indicator were taken from Environment Canada's Municipal Water and Wastewater Survey (MWWS). The survey was discontinued in 2012, with the last data collected for 2009. Data for this indicator are now taken from two Statistics Canada surveys: the Households and the Environment Survey (HES) and the Survey of Drinking Water Plants (SDWP).

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