Residential water use

In 2011, 58% of Canadian households were equipped with water meters compared to 52% in 1991. Over the same period, average daily water use dropped by 27% from 342 litres per person in 1991 to 251 litres per person in 2011.

Households on metered water systems and per capita residential water use, Canada, 1991 to 2011

Line graphs
Long description

The top line graph shows the percentage of households with water meters between 1991 and 2011 and the bottom line graph shows per capita residential water use in litres per day between 1991 and 2011. In 2011, 58% of Canadian households were equipped with water meters compared to 52% in 1991. Over the same period, average daily water use dropped from 342 litres per person in 1991 to 251 litres per person in 2011.

Data for this chart
Households on metered water systems and per capita residential water use, Canada, 1991 to 2011
Year Percentage of households with water meters Per capita residential water use (litres per day)
1991 52 342
1994 53 335
1996 56 327
1999 56 343
2001 61 335
2004 63 329
2006 62 327
2007 58 -
2009 61 274
2011 58 251

Note: There are no per capita residential water use data for 2007 because data for the Municipal Water and Wastewater Survey were not collected that year. The data source changed for percentage of households with water meters in 2006 and for per capita water use in 2011. See the Data Sources and Methods document for more information about the data source change.

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 703 B)

How this indicator was calculated

Note: Data only refer to households served by municipal water systems; private water systems are not included. The data source for these indicators has changed. The data for percentage of households with water meters changed in 2006 and per capita water use changed in 2011. See the data sources and methods document for more information about the data source change.
Source: Environment Canada's Municipal Water and Wastewater Survey; Statistics Canada's Households and the Environment, Catalogue no. 11-526-XIE; Statistics Canada's Survey of Drinking Water Plants, Catalogue no. 16-403-X.

Despite improvements in household water conservation, Canada remains one of the largest per capita users of fresh water in the world.Footnote [1] Urban growth, industry expansion and climate change put pressure on Canadian cities' ability to supply water to households. Managing water demand, and the financing of building and repairing water infrastructure, are a priority for many communities. Managing water use helps prevent a wide variety of environmental and economic problems, including water shortages, increased concentration of pollutants in water bodies, costly expansion of water and wastewater infrastructure, and increased energy consumption to pump and treat.

In 2011, households used 43% of the water distributed by municipalities.Footnote [2] The price of water has a major influence on the amount of water used by households. In general, municipalities price water following two approaches. In flat-rate pricing, households are charged the same price for water regardless of the amount used, an approach commonly found in municipalities with no water meters. In volume-based pricing, municipalities with water meters base their charges for water on the actual amount of water used. Household metering and volume-based pricing increase consumer awareness about water use and provide a financial incentive to conserve water. 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] This change in water use has caused some municipalities to raise water rates to cover the loss of revenue used to finance water utilities.

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