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Appendix 2: Sustainable Development Strategy 2004-2006 Water Commitments

This appendix presents the water-related commitments from Moving Forward, NRCan's third sustainable development strategy (SDS), tabled in Parliament in February 2004. There are water-related activities found under two of the Strategy's ‘Key Results' which form the document's structure. Some of the descriptive text for each of the key results has also been reproduced here. Each of the actions the Department plans to take during the period of the SDS (April 2004–March 2006) is described in one line from the Strategy's action tables.

The action tables follow a consistent format, with the action listed across the top and the individual items described in the body of the table. Reading the columns across from left to right shows a progression from a description of the specific issue, to NRCan's approach to addressing the issue, to the specific, measurable target that will be achieved within the timeframe of this SDS, to the anticipated outcome of the activity. In some cases, related items have been presented as one action item, in other words, as a single row in the action table.

Key Result 1:
Canadians make better decisions that advance sustainable development

Turning NRCan's vision into reality depends on improving decision making at all levels of Canadian society, so that social, economic and environmental considerations are thoroughly integrated in decision-making processes. Building capacity is about creating the conditions for advancing sustainable development by improving our ability to make better decisions.

Action 1.3: Increase understanding of water resource supply and minimize impacts of natural sector activities on aquatic ecosystems
Issue Approach Target Anticipated outcome

Close to 10 million Canadians rely on groundwater. This number is constantly growing, yet our understanding of how much groundwater is available for use in Canada, is limited.

There is a need for governments (municipal, provincial and federal) to better understand the quality and quantity of existing groundwater resources and the dynamics and vulnerability of key regional sources.

NRCan will focus on determining the extent of the most strategic regional groundwater resources. NRCan will also develop methods for assessing the vulnerability of groundwater resources to land use and climate change.

The emphasis of this initiative will be on the synthesis of existing data, as well as resource characterization of aquifers with critical dependencies for human use, agriculture and/or industry.

By 2006, map 20% of key regional aquifers.

By 2006, complete current regional projects, to standards proposed by the Canadian Framework for Collaboration on Groundwater.

By 2006, produce maps of natural quality of the groundwater of regional aquifers.

By 2006, establish national database on groundwater.

By 2006, establish and implement approaches for assessing the impact of land cover and climate change on groundwater.

Improved knowledge of key regional groundwater resources in Canada.

Identify aquifers at risk and aid municipal government to plan related to water and waste management issues.

Canada has the third largest resource of fresh water globally. Yet the majority of Canada's water use is found in areas away from the major population centres.

At issue is the impact of climate change on the balance of water supply and demand at regional and national scales.

NRCan will assess Canada wide land surface water budget through a combination of earth observation data, numerical simulation models and observed and modelled climate data.

Earth observation will also be applied to provide Canada wide maps of snow cover on a daily basis by processing archival and current satellite imagery.

By 2006, complete the Canada Water Accounts of annual sub-sub-basin water budgets under current and projected conditions.

By 2006, a record of current and historical snow cover trends over Canada from 1985 onwards.

Canadians have information that helps them to better plan adaptation responses.

Governments make use of snow cover trends to assess fire danger levels and impacts of snow cover changes on water availability for in-stream and consumptive use.

According to climate change scenarios, the Prairie region will become even drier than now.

The ability of biophysical systems to adapt to change, the human capacity of adaptation, the need for additional water resources as an option for adaptation are under question - as well as the policy and program options to address these issues.

NRCan will use an integrated assessment and modelling approach to address these issues, in collaboration with other government departments and the University of Saskatchewan, using NRCan's capacity in glacier monitoring, biophysical systems monitoring and modelling, and spatially-explicit modelling and simulation, and using an integrated assessment and modelling approach.

By 2006, produce an assessment of costs of climate change and water resource impacts to Prairie agriculture and economy;

By 2006, develop an integrated assessment framework that can be used to test scenarios of the costs under different climate change and socio-economic assumptions.

Prairie provinces have information to assist them with adaptation decision-making.

The production of oil and gas can be a highly consumptive use of fresh potable water. Conventional oil water flooding and water withdrawal from the Athabasca river for oil sands development are two examples.

Recent oil sands announcements have led some to question the ability of the Athabasca River to meet the projected increasing demand for water. Prolonged and more periodic drought conditions can further exacerbate the challenges which lead to a very difficult allocation of potable surface and near-surface water rights between the conventional oil water flooding industry, other industrial groups, agriculture and community/residential users.

NRCan has developed a number of science and technology initiatives dealing with water use in oil and gas production.

At its research lab in Devon, Alberta, NRCan is active in surface mined oil sands extraction and tailings research focussed on increasing recycled water use to reduce fresh water demand. NRCan is also actively encouraging other government departments as well as provincial, academic and private-sector interests to pursue less water-intensive oil and gas technology developments.

By 2004, establish the Oil Sands Tailings Research facility, with a focus on tailings and water management.

By 2004, establish a multi-year research program on 21st century conventional oil water flooding technology development.

Enhanced stewardship, and reduced intensity of fresh potable water use in oil and gas production, particularly oil sands development and conventional oil production by water flooding.

There is a need to better understand the linkages between forests, forestry practices, and freshwater stewardship, in a Canadian context.

NRCan will finalize a synthesis report on the role of forests and impact of forest management on Canada's water by assembling and reviewing scientific information and knowledge. This product will be developed in partnership with the University of Alberta. The publication will target members of the Canadian forest community.

By 2004, publish a synthesis report on the role of forests and impacts of forest management on Canada's water.

A better understanding of the linkages between water and forest ecosystems, and related federal government science activities.

Better informed policy and operational decisions, leading to improved sustainable development practices over time.

The Canadian mining industry faces the ongoing challenge of complying with the regulatory requirements for effluents under the Fisheries Act in a cost-effective manner.

Mine effluents are the largest environmental liability facing the Canadian industry. Low-impact chemical technologies and innovative biotechnologies have the potential to offer cost-effective and efficient tools for effluent treatment.

NRCan works with industry on the development of treatment strategies for mine, mill and metallurgical effluents. NRCan is developing chemical and biological treatment technologies for mine effluents by researching passive treatment systems; metal absorption using biosorbent from seaweed; and biotechnology for oxidizsation of thiosalts.

Research partners include universities, consultants and the mining industry.

By 2004, test technologies that employ bacteria to naturally treat contaminants in mine effluents.

By 2005, provide scientific report and conference presentation outlining biological and chemical processes occurring within passive treatment systems in order that they could be more widely utilized at mine sites in Canada.

By 2006, develop scientific report and conference presentation on the use of alginate and paper mill sludge as metal adsorbents in mine effluent treatment

Treatment systems that can be applied at mine sites and engineered to respond to the specific conditions at the site.

Leadership in the design and development of sustainable treatment systems for mining operations.

Mining and related processing of ores produces wastes that are typically deposited in the natural environment.

Understanding how metals behave in the environment is key to developing appropriate policies and strategies to manage them.

Improved understanding of the potential toxicity of mine wastes in the receiving environment is essential for a valid characterization of mine effluents.

NRCan is conducting research to characterize mine effluents by evaluating the persistence of bioavailable forms of metals; characterizing hazards of metals and alloys; developing prediction models for chronic metal toxicity; and developing microcosm/macrocosm facilities.

Research partners for this initiative include universities, consultants and the mining industry.

By 2004, complete study on geochemical behaviour of copper, zinc and cadmium in receiving waters.

By 2005, complete study on hazard identification of stainless steel.

By 2005, complete study of the effect of copper on the invertebrate indicator Ceriodaphnia.

By 2006, conduct ecosystem column set-up.

Changes to the regulatory approach for environmental protection that are based on sound science

Development of prediction models that offer simple but accurate assessment of effluent toxicity and their acceptance by the regulatory community.

There are opportunities in Canada to develop more small- and medium-sized stations to generate hydroelectricity, as renewable energy source, often with little or no storage; but there are environmental concerns related to aquatic ecosystems.

NRCan develops methods and technologies to mitigate impacts of hydroelectric development on aquatic ecosystems to help industry stakeholders meet regulatory requirements.

NRCan is involved in streamflow modelling and development of a management framework based on biological criteria, instream flow assessments, habitat requirements of fish species and studies on the effects of hydro-peaking on aquatic resources.

NRCan will be also conducting a gap analysis on innovative impact-reduction technologies. One identified priority is the need for low-cost, reliable and efficient fish-friendly equipment for small and medium hydro sites.

By 2005, collect and report on innovative impact-reduction technologies and approaches at selected hydro facilities in Canada. Conduct a gap analysis to identify further R&D needs related to habitat management, fish bypass and water management operations.

By 2006, develop three new modelling tools for stream flow assessments for use by utilities, federal and provincial regulatory agencies.

By 2006, develop concept for specially designed fish-friendly turbines and advanced speed generators, conduct computational fluid dynamics analysis, develop model and conduct testing and field trials.

Streamflow management tools applicable to individual hydro sites to ensure compliance with the Fisheries Act and provide adequate protection of aquatic ecosystems.

Canadian-designed leading-edge fish-friendly hydro equipment for small- and medium-sized hydropower.

The small hydro industry requires data and tools to assess potential changes in streamflow regimes resulting from climate change. As most small hydro sites have little or no storage, they are especially vulnerable to climate change which may affect energy outputs and/or increase risks of extreme events such as flooding.

NRCan develops and adapts tools and methods for resource assessment and extremes analysis of small hydro sites. New research to address the impacts of climate change on small hydro is in the planning stages.

Climate data will be obtained from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Environment Canada (EC) and a partnership may be forged with EC.

By 2006, complete hydrological model calibration and validation for small hydro resource assessment across Canada.

By 2007, complete extremes model calibration and validation across Canada.

By 2008, complete comparison of present-day and future climate scenarios in small-scale watersheds representing various hydrological regimes in Canada.

Information on hydrologically vulnerable areas in Canada, specifically related to small watersheds where small hydro development is prominent.

Climate change data and calibrated parameters that can be used in adapted resource assessment and extremes models for site-specific analysis of climate change impacts.

Key Result 4:
NRCan demonstrates its commitment to sustainable development in its operations

As a federal government organization, NRCan has a responsibility to provide Canadians with a department that is efficiently and effectively managed in all respects. However, to achieve progress towards our vision it will be imperative to go beyond normal business practice. As a champion of the sustainable development of Canada's natural resources, the Department must demonstrate its commitment to the principles of sustainable development in its own operations in order to be able to lead with authority and credibility.

Action 4.2: Develop and implement further strategies to improve resource use efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in NRCan facilities
Issue Approach Target Anticipated outcome

Like the reduction of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, the reduction of water consumption is essential to achieving sustainable NRCan operations.

Water conservation activities aim to achieve the following: the reduction of the absolute amounts of water (less water per person or given product or service) and/or the reduction of the rate (using water only when it is needed) at which water is used on a daily basis (sustainable use).

By 2004, consultation on NRCan's Draft Water Conservation Strategy completed, Strategy finalized and approved.

By 2004, provide input into the feasibility study for the development of a national Sustainable Buildings Policy.

By 2005, establish baseline data of water consumption.

By 2006, establish a target to reduce water consumption at NRCan facilities.

The sustainable use of water, which contributes to overall sustainable NRCan operations.

 


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