Canada Water Act annual report for 2018 to 2019: chapter 1

1 Introduction  

The Canada Water Act (CWA) administered by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change (ECCC) enables a framework for collaboration among federal, provincial and territorial governments in matters relating to water resources. Each level of government has a different role related to the management of water resources. Joint projects involve the regulation, apportionment, monitoring or surveying of water resources, and the planning and implementation of programs relating to the conservation, development and utilization of water resources. As well, there are many areas of shared responsibility.

Section 38 of the Act requires that a report on operations under the Act be laid before Parliament as soon as possible after the end of each fiscal year. This annual report covers progress on these activities from April 1, 2018, to March 31, 2019.

The following is a summary of the major provisions of the Act:

This report describes a wide range of federal operations conducted under the authority of the Act, including participation in federal-provincial/territorial agreements and arrangements, significant water monitoring and research, and public information programs. It also includes work done under the Act to safeguard the water quality and quantity of Canada’s watersheds.

Canadian provinces and territories have significant responsibility over areas of water management and protection within their borders, including water allocation and use, drinking water and wastewater services, source water protection, and thermal and hydroelectric power development. Most of these governments delegate some authority to municipalities, in particular drinking water treatment and distribution, and wastewater treatment operations in urban areas. In certain cases, local authorities responsible for a particular area or river basin take on some water-resource management functions when requested by government.

The federal government has strong pollution prevention authorities and is responsible for managing water on federal lands (e.g. national parks), Indigenous lands, in federal facilities (e.g. office buildings, laboratories, penitentiaries, military bases) and in Nunavut. The federal government also has jurisdiction to make laws in relation to fisheries and navigation, both of which play a role in water management.

Formal bilateral hydrometric agreements between most provincial/territorial governments and the federal government provide for the collection, analysis, interpretation and dissemination of water quantity data. These agreements have been administered cooperatively since 1975 and, with the exception of Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, and Saskatchewan have been renewed since 2008.

CWA agreements that were ongoing during 2018-2019 included the following.

Agreements for specific water programs require participating governments to specify the amount of funding each will pay and the information and expertise they will provide, in agreed ratios. For ongoing activities such as the hydrometric monitoring agreements with each provincial and territorial government, cost-sharing is in accordance with each party’s need for the data. For study and planning agreements, generally the federal government and the specific provincial or territorial government each assumes half of the costs. The planning studies encompass interprovincial, international or other water basins where federal interests are important. Cost-sharing for infrastructure often includes a contribution from local governments.

The sections below describe federal, provincial and territorial collaboration in the following areas:

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