Canada Water Agency - Overview

The Government of Canada is working to establish a Canada Water Agency. As a federal agency, it will work together with the provinces, territories, Indigenous communities, local authorities, scientists, and others to find the best ways to keep our fresh water safe, clean, and well-managed.

Water in Canada

Canada is home to more than two million freshwater lakes and rivers -- more inland waters than any other country. In addition to lakes and rivers, fresh water can be found in ponds, streams, wetlands, groundwater aquifers, snow, ice, and glaciers. In all, Canada has 20% of the world’s fresh water.

Fresh, clean water sustains life. It is essential for healthy freshwater habitats and the plants and animals that are supported by them. For many Indigenous peoples, water is sacred, protected, and honoured as the giver of all life. As Canadians, freshwater resources form part of our heritage, culture and national identity. Fresh water is central to human health and well-being, and Canada’s freshwater resources are essential to the country’s economy, playing a fundamental role in supporting agriculture, fisheries, mining, energy, manufacturing and tourism.

Management of Canada’s fresh water is a shared responsibility between Canada’s federal, provincial, territorial and Indigenous governments. It is important to respect this shared responsibility, and to work together to improve coordination, avoid duplication, and align actions to address key freshwater challenges.

Challenges with fresh water

Freshwater quality in Canada is generally considered to be acceptable, but we must not be complacent. Water quality tends to deteriorate with increased pressures from population growth, industrial and agricultural development, and natural resource extraction. Canada has an abundant supply of fresh water; however, local changes in temperature and precipitation can impact surface and ground water levels throughout the year, sometimes resulting in flooding or droughts.

Water and water systems on reserve continue to be a challenge for First Nations. The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring First Nations have access to safe, clean drinking water, working with First Nations communities to improve water infrastructure on reserves, end long-term drinking water advisories on public systems on reserves, and prevent short-term advisories from becoming long term. This effort is being led by Indigenous Services Canada and is ongoing. For more information...

Climate change has caused rapid and unprecedented changes in freshwater systems, including:

What we learned consulting with Canadians

In December 2020, Toward the Creation of a Canada Water Agency, a public discussion paper was released to launch consultations with Canadians on the creation of the new agency. More than 2700 Canadians, including municipal governments, non-government organizations, industry representatives, academia, Indigenous peoples and individual citizens, participated to share their thoughts and ideas to help scope the new agency’s mandate.

The Stakeholder and Public Engagement – What We Heard report was released in June 2020. This report summarized the views and advice received from Canadians. Nearly all participants supported creation of a Canada Water Agency. Based on the wide range of ideas and opinions shared by participants, a number of common themes on the potential role of a Canada Water Agency emerged. These included: -

Working with Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous peoples’ jurisdictions, knowledge systems and inherent responsibilities play an instrumental role in freshwater governance. The Government of Canada is committed to working with First Nations, Métis and Inuit partners on a nation-to-nation, government-to-government, and Inuit-Crown basis to solicit their views on the mandate, roles and priorities for the new Agency. Engagement and collaboration with Indigenous peoples is ongoing and will continue until the Agency is operationalized.

Indigenous governments and organizations are encouraged to contact us at for more information on the opportunities to be involved in creating the Canada Water Agency.

Related links

Toward the Creation of a Canada Water Agency: Stakeholder and Public Engagement – What We Heard

Toward the Creation of a Canada Water Agency: discussion paper

Government of Canada launches online consultations to help improve freshwater management in Canada

Contact us

Canada Water Agency Transition Office
Strategic Policy Branch, Environment and Climate Change Canada
4905 Dufferin Street, Toronto (ON) M3H 5T4

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