Estimation of Water Use in Canadian Agriculture in 2001

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By Martin S. Beaulieu1, Caroline Fric 2 and François Soulard2

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Water is used for different activities in agricultural production. Water can be used to irrigate crops at specific times in the growing season to supplement water from precipitation or to simply replace it in a closed environment like a greenhouse. Water can be used to spray liquid pesticides and other products applied to protect crops, and to wash spraying equipment. Water can be sprayed on some crops for frost protection. It can also be used for harvesting a crop (e.g. flooding a cranberry field) or for cleaning equipment and facilities, washing produce and on–farm processing (e.g. canning produce). Water is also used in livestock production, e.g. livestock watering, cleaning, and washing and sanitizing equipment such as milk pipelines, parlours, buckets and tanks. In fact, the agricultural sector accounted for 9% of all water used in Canada in 1996, and 74% of this was consumed (Statistics Canada, 2003).
However, provincial agricultural water use estimates vary across Canada. While some estimates are derived from actual metered measurements of water flow, others are derived from surveys, and yet others are simply the result of educated guesses. The fact is that there is no common denominator across the country with regards to agricultural water use estimates. This paper describes the efforts and results of Statistics Canada to produce nationally comparable national, provincial and sub-sub-drainage area agricultural water use estimates for reference year 2001.


  1. Agriculture Division, Statistics Canada.
  2. Environment Accounts and Statistics Division, Statistics Canada

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