Canada Water Act annual report for 2020 to 2021: chapter 1

1 Introduction

The Canada Water Act (CWA), which is administered by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, 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 and there are many areas of shared responsibility. 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.

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, 2020 to March 31, 2021.

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.

Freshwater management in Canada is a responsibility shared between federal, provincial, territorial, and Indigenous governments. The federal government is involved in freshwater-related areas such as fisheries, pollution prevention, shipping and navigation, international relations, domestic transboundary waters, and the creation and management of protected areas. The federal government is also responsible for management of freshwater on federal lands.

Provincial and territorial governments play major roles in the management of freshwater. They are generally involved in freshwater-related areas such as providing the authorization for water use within their borders, responsibility for drinking water, as well as managing inland fisheries, aquatic species at risk, and invasive species.

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 in relation to 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.

Under many historic and modern treaties, and self-government agreements, Indigenous Peoples have freshwater-related rights. Indigenous Peoples are also involved in transboundary freshwater management, including through water management boards.

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

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