Thousands of people in Canada can't drink their water, says new report

Media Release
March 12, 2015

ReportOttawa – A new Council of Canadians report reveals that as of January there were 1,838 drinking water advisories in effect across Canada, warning people not to drink their water straight from the tap. 

The report, On Notice for a Drinking Water Crisis is the first in many years to document the drinking water advisories across Canada. On Notice reveals that there were 1,669 drinking water advisories in counties and municipalities and 169 drinking water advisories in First Nations communities.

With threats including tar sands expansion, pipelines, mining, fracking, bottled water plants, climate change and agricultural run-off, the report concludes that without government action, more and more drinking water advisories will follow.

"Too many communities are being affected by increasingly long drinking water advisories, yet governments continue to approve resource and development projects that endanger lakes, rivers and groundwater," says Emma Lui, national water campaigner for the Council of Canadians. "These drinking water advisories serve as an alarm: governments need to adequately fund water infrastructure and protect watersheds, not destroy them."

The Council of Canadians has warned that the current Federal Water Policy – passed in 1987 – is sorely outdated. The Council is calling for a national water policy that addresses current water threats such as tar sands development, fracking, mining and climate change. 

To add to this, the federal government's 2012 omnibus budget bills implemented sweeping changes to environmental laws and removed critical safeguards for water protection including:

  • eliminating 3,000 federal environmental assessments through amendments to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act
  • removing protections for 99 per cent of lakes and rivers by changing the Navigable Water Protection Act
  • gutting the Fisheries Act

"The current government is giving the green light to more resource extraction projects that endanger our water. At the same time, it has removed environmental safeguards. This creates a situation where companies can make unconstrained profits, but at the expense of the water we drink," concludes Maude Barlow, former special advisor to the UN on water issues and chair of the Council of Canadians. "In 2012, Canada endorsed the UN resolutions saying that water is a human right. We have to start acting like it if we want to avoid a future water crisis."

To read the report, click here.

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Drinking water advisory map