Canada’s abundance of fresh water under threat from toxic algae, climate change


Canada will be up a creek without a paddle if it doesn’t acknowledge threats to its fresh water, says a report from some of the country’s top water scientists.

“We’ve enjoyed the luxury of the myth of limitless abundance of fresh water in Canada,” said Bob Sandford, a co-author of a report by the Global Water Futures project, which involves 22 universities.

Climate change is rapidly outpacing water use policies that haven’t changed in decades and the patchwork of rival jurisdictions that create them aren’t moving quickly enough to adapt, said co-author Corinne Schuster-Wallace.

“Climate change impacts are accelerating far faster than we ever thought they would. Our water governance policies are fragmented.”

As an example, the authors point to eutrophication, a poisoning of lake water by toxic algae that often affects lakes such as Lake Erie and Lake Winnipeg.

The algae have always been around, but the impacts are increasing from growing amounts of agricultural run-off and the gradual warming of lake water from climate change.

“Lakes in Canada are warming at twice the global rate,” Sandford said. “Warmer water reduces the threshold it takes … to produce algal blooms.

“Eutrophication is a problem from coast to coast to coast.”