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Cutting down on the waste we produce and conserving the water we use means our communities are producing less emissions, as well as being easier on our natural resources.


Municipalities can support households in doingboth these things with good programs and education. How much waste do households in a community produce? How much water do people use every day?

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Why this Indicator is Important

We measure water consumption as the amount of residential water consumption in litres per capita per day. Water conservation is important from both an environmental and climate standpoint. Canada is one of the largest users of freshwater in the world.1 Treating wastewater produces methane, a greenhouse gas, which water conversation can help cut down on.2 The more extreme and frequent weather events caused by climate change can also pollute our surface and groundwater systems.3 This can disproportionately affect communities that already struggle with water access, such as Indigenous communities that face drinking water advisories.4 Water use in a city is broken down into three main categories: residential, commercial, and industrial. On average, residential use accounts for about half or more of total water consumption in a municipality.5 Research has shown that “volume-based pricing” is a good strategy for encouraging residential water conservation. While some municipalities apply flat-rate pricing (where all households are charged the same amount regardless of variations in consumption levels), volume-based pricing means that households are charged based on the actual amount of water used.6 Volume-based pricing encourages households to reduce their water use by as much as 73% compared to flat-rate pricing. However, volume-based pricing requires the city to install water metres on every home.7 Other strategies cities may use include educational programming and water efficiency incentives, as well reducing water consumption from city-owned facilities.

Data Availability and Accessibility: 1/3

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Water consumption is a new indicator for the NCL this year. We chose to add it becauseit is a significant part of city services as well as environmental sustainability. This data involved contacting city water facilities and city staff, as well as consulting water consumption reports. Cities that have water meters installed in homes are able to obtain this data more easily, although some cities provided a total residential water consumption, which meant that we had to calculate per capita use using census data.

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Note(s): Data are from 2020 to 2021. Sources include city water reports and city staff. The dotted line represents the Canadian average.

Winning Municipality

The winning city is Saskatoon, Saskatchewan with a water consumption of 152 L/capita/day. One of the key actions in the city’s Strategic Plan for 2022-2025 is to “implement innovativeand efficient water conservation practices and programs...”8 Saskatoon has used an advanced metering infrastructure system since around 2016, in which installed water metres automatically report customer usage to the utility for billing.9 The city provides educational information on how residents can reduce water use through its “Be Water Wise” program, and also offers a $20 rebate on rain barrel purchases. It also partnered with SaskPower, the local utility, on the Energy Assistance Program, which offers lower-income residents free retrofits such as water-efficient showerheads.10 As with energy efficiency measures, these kind of retrofits are not only climate-friendly and sustainable, they also help residents save money on their utility bills.

International Highlight

Cape Town’s strong water conservation program has resulted in a 30% reduction in water use by the city, despite a population increase of 30% over the same period. The programme focuses on water conservation education as well as implementing water-saving technology. In the first category, the city trained school caretakers in 60 schools about water conservation. In the second, the city improved leak detection, adjusted water pressure to reduce wastage, and carried out a massive overhaul of old infrastructure, including replacing 20,574 water meters. The city also worked with parks and golf courses to get them to irrigate with treated effluent rather than potable water, saving millions of gallons a year.11