ARCHIVED - Water Issues and Activities in NRCan Operations

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Freshwater: The Role and Contribution of Natural Resources Canada

With regard to freshwater, the role of the Strategic Policy Branch (SPB) at NRCan is to advise the Minister and senior management on water policy issues of relevance to the Department. In doing so, SPB undertakes strategic analysis and coordination among the sectors to position the Department on freshwater policy issues of significance. SPB also represents the Department in international, intergovernmental and interdepartmental water policy fora and events as necessary.

The role of SPB's Environmental Management Team is to assist in improving the environmental performance of NRCan operations. The Team is responsible for the development of environmental performance measures (indicators) for sustainable departmental operations, and the use of these to report progress where possible. Complementing our internal objectives is the government-wide goal for environmental excellence in federal operations.

The mechanism by which the environmental aspects of NRCan's operations are managed is the departmental Environmental Management System (EMS).

  • The Resource Use aspect of the EMS includes the management of water consumption in NRCan operations. One of our Departmental Environmental Policy objectives is to seek cost-effective ways of reducing the input of raw materials, toxic substances, energy, water and other resources, and reducing the generation of greenhouse gases, waste and noise associated with day-to-day operations.
  • The Land Use Management aspect of NRCan operations includes the management of NRCan wastewater.

As of early 2005, NRCan occupies more than 312 leased and custodial buildings across Canada and uses them for a variety of purposes, for example, office space, research and laboratories, field stations, and storage space.

Sustainable Development in Government Operations

The Sustainable Development in Government Operations (SDGO) initiative is led by NRCan, Environment Canada, and Public Works and Government Services Canada. Water Conservation is one of the six aspect areas of federal operations for which the initiative is concerned (others are Energy Efficiency / Buildings, Vehicle Fleet Management, Land Use Management, Solid Non-hazardous Waste Management, Wastewater Management and Green Procurement). SDGO targets the 28 departments and agencies (including NRCan) that produce Sustainable Development Strategies (SDSs). The role of SDGO is to assist federal departments and agencies in the integration of sustainable approaches and actions in their day-to-day activities, coordinate their efforts (more precisely, the targets related to sustainability of operations set in their respective SDSs), and facilitate / undertake uniform measuring and collective reporting against progress on greening government operations.

Water Use in Operations

NRCan possesses baseline data on water consumption (volume and cost) for some custodial facilities dating back to 1997. Internal data and data trend analyses indicate that efforts to meet the Department's objective to reduce water use are proving successful.

Water Conservation at Federal Facilities

Using its experience in reducing operational use of water, NRCan actively participates on the Interdepartmental Advisory Group on Water Conservation at Federal Facilities (WCFF), which was formed in 1990. The WCFF serves as a forum for sharing experiences and developing joint tools, including The Water Conservation Plan for Federal Government Facilities and the accompanying Manual for Conducting Water Audits as well as Developing Water Efficiency Programs for Federal Facilities. The Advisory Group also serves an information-sharing function for federal facilities striving for excellence in water conservation.

In 1994-95, water consumption audits were conducted at four major NRCan facilities (Bells Corners Complex, leased by NRCan from PWGSC; H.J. Flemming Forestry Centre; Great Lakes Forestry Centre; and the Pacific Forestry Centre). Funding was provided by the NRCan Federal Buildings Initiative (established to conserve energy and reduce emissions resulting from lighting, heating and air conditioning) and was used to implement water-conservation strategies at the facilities (e.g. water-cooled air conditioning units have been replaced with air-cooled units at Bells Corners). Water savings at these facilities averaged 23.5 percent (total of 62,000 cubic metres) compared to 1994-95 levels.

Through this initiative and via other actions, including the implementation of water-conservation measures (reduce, repair and retrofit) on a project-by-project basis where and when practicable, the Department has lowered its total water consumption over 40 percent since 1998. Drawing upon this positive trend, NRCan has developed and formalized a Natural Resources Canada Water Conservation Strategy to facilitate better tracking of water-efficiency measures and water consumption at NRCan facilities. Completion of the Strategy fulfills one of our sustainable development commitments.

Wastewater Management

The Departmental Environmental Policy requires NRCan to meet or exceed federal environmental laws, regulations and policies, and where appropriate to be compatible with provincial, national and international standards. NRCan protocols for wastewater sampling follow ISO guidance methods (i.e. ISO 5667). Compliance verification and monitoring of wastewater discharge from NRCan facilities is a component of the overall environmental program. Internal guidance documents such as the Wastewater Compliance Program Methodological Framework (2001) and Approach for Assessing and Managing Wastewater Effluent Quality for Federal Facilities (2000) facilitate assessment.

Wastewater studies have been conducted by the Environmental Management Team at selected facilities within NRCan, starting in 1996. The facilities selected are those which have the greater risk of having compliance issues, those with large laboratories and which use many types of chemicals in large quantities, or those where an Environmental Compliance Audit has produced negative findings relating to wastewater discharge.

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