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Freshwater quality

  • This new indicator provides a preliminary assessment of surface water quality with respect to protecting aquatic life (e.g., fish, invertebrates and plants). It does not assess the quality of water for human consumption. It is based on information gathered from 2001 to 2003 from 345 selected monitoring sites across the country.
  • Freshwater quality was rated as "good" or "excellent" at 44% of the sites, "fair" at 31% and "marginal" or "poor" at 25%.
  • Almost all of the selected sites are located in southern Canada in areas of human activity, including human settlements and agricultural regions and, to a lesser extent, areas potentially influenced by acid deposition, industrial facilities and dams.
  • This preliminary indicator will be revised in future reports to reflect improvements in monitoring and analysis.


Water of good quality and in appropriate quantities is fundamental to ecosystems, human health and economic performance. In Canada, water is mostly used by households and in industries such as electricity generation, agriculture, manufacturing, petroleum extraction and mining. More >>

Status and trends

National status

Water quality data from a mix of federal, provincial, and joint monitoring programs were assessed by regional experts and assembled into a national dataset to calculate this indicator. More >>

What's next?

This first report provides information on the status of water quality in Canada as it relates to the protection of aquatic life. The preliminary indicator reported here will be revised in future reports. More >>

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Date modified: 2005-12-14 Important Notices
Online catalogue Main page Executive summary Introduction Findings Conclusion Figures and maps Methods and data quality References More information PDF version Related products Online catalogue: Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators: Socio-economic Information