Water Problems in the Canadian
Prairies

Nimisha Singla
11.10.2021

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Canada may be home to the largest freshwater source on Earth, but that does not exempt it from its share of water problems. The issues are both natural and anthropogenic - ranging from droughts to inadequate source water protection. Climate change is exacerbating these and making situations more difficult to predict and even harder to prepare for.

The Canadian provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta constitute the Prairie
Provinces. The Prairies are responsible for 19% of Canada's total resource-based employment, with agricultural activities and food processing accounting for nearly 62% of the total. The region is increasingly experiencing extremes - in climatic conditions and hazardous events - which pose short term as well as long term threats to water security.

An agri-intensive culture introduces its own set of problems. Farmers are incentivised to employ deleterious practices in drainage and irrigation without much study in alternative technology and solutions. Lax regulations on pesticides and fertilisers lead to high nutrient loading in lakes which in turn become unfit for use as a source for drinking water, even after extensive treatment.


Rapid development and urbanization is causing destruction of wetlands and riparian areas. High snowmelt due to global warming is a major cause for flooding as is, that continued heavy human intervention in towns and cities by way of improper and inadequate stormwater management systems is increasingly becoming worrisome too.

The Canadian Federal Government has set aside a $1 million budget for Western Economic Diversification Canada to develop a water and land management strategy to address drought and water management threats on the Prairies. This is a welcome step and an opportunity that, if utilised optimally, can spearhead positive change.

 

Adaptive governance strengthened via social learning and scenario-based vulnerability analysis case by case can hope to tackle these water problems, as complex as their spatial and temporal scales may be.