COUNTRY PROFILE - CANADA
Canada extends across the
continent of North America, from Newfoundland on the Atlantic coast to British Columbia on
the Pacific coast. About 28 million people live in Canada of which 80 per cent live within
300 kilometers of Canadas southern border. Much of the rest of Canada is uninhabited
or thinly populated because the country has rugged terrain and a severe climate. Over
three-fourths of Canadas people live in cities or towns. Canada has six cultural and
economic regions. They are (1) the Atlantic Provinces, (2) Quebec, (3) Ontario, (4) the
Prairie Provinces, (5) British Columbia, and (6) the Territories. With its capital in
Ottawa, Canada has two official languages English and French. About 67% speak only
English, 17% speak only French, while 15% speak both languages.
Land and Climate
Canada covers more than
half of North America. It borders Alaska on the northwest and the rest of the continental
United States on the south. From east to west, Canada extends 5,187 kilometers from the
rocky coast of Newfoundland to the St. Elias Mountains in the Yukon Territory. Canada has
eight major land regions. They are (1) the Pacific Ranges and Lowlands, (2) the Rocky
Mountains, (3) the Arctic Islands, (4) the Interior Plains, (5) the Canadian Shield, (6)
the Hudson Bay Lowlands, (7) the St. Lawrence Lowlands, and (8) the Appalachian Region. Canadas northern
location gives the country a cold climate, but conditions vary considerably from region to
region. During the winter, westerly winds bring frigid Arctic air to most of Canada.
Average January temperatures are below 18o C in two-thirds of the country. Northern
Canada has short, cool summers. In the northern Arctic Islands, July temperatures average
below 4o C. Southern Canada has summers that are long enough and warm enough for growing
crops. Summer winds from the Gulf of Mexico often bring hot weather to southern Ontario
and the St. Lawrence River Valley. Some coastal areas of British Columbia receive more
than 250 centimeters of precipitation annually. Most of it falls during the autumn and
winter. The Canadian prairies have from 25 to 50 centimeters of precipitation a year,
mainly as rain during the summer. These conditions help make the prairies ideal for
growing grain. Southeastern Canada has a
humid climate. The average annual precipitation ranges from about 75 centimeters in
southern Ontario to about 150 centimeters on the coasts of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.
More than 250 centimeters of snow covers eastern Canada in winter.
Large numbers of rivers,
waterfalls, and lakes add to the scenic beauty of the Canadian countryside. Until the
first railways were built during 1800s, the rivers and lakes also provided the only
means of reaching Canadas vast interior. Canada has four major drainage areas or
basins; (1) the Atlantic Basin, (2) the Hudson Bay and Hudson Strait Basin, (3) the Arctic
Basin, and (4) the Pacific Basin. The Atlantic Basin covers about 1,800,000 square
kilometers in eastern Canada. The most important waterway in this area is the Great Lakes
St. Lawrence River system. The Great Lakes, the largest group of freshwater lakes
in the world, cover 244,780 square kilometers. The St. Lawrence River flows about 1,150
kilometers from Lake Ontario to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, an arm of the Atlantic Ocean.
Dams on the major tributaries of the St. Lawrence provide much hydroelectric power for
Quebec. The Hudson Bay and Hudson Strait Basin covers about a third of mainland Canada.
The chief river in this basin is the Nelson, which flows from Lake Winnipeg to Hudson Bay.
The Arctic Basin includes parts of British Columbia, the Prairie Provinces, and the
territories. The Mackenzie River system drains about half the basin. The sources of this
river system, Canadas longest, are high in the Rocky Mountains, where the Peace and
Athabasca rivers begin. The Pacific Basin covers much of British Columbia and the Yukon
Territory. The longest river in the southern part of the Pacific Basin is the Fraser. It
flows through a deep valley from the Canadian Rockies to Vancouver, where it empties into
the Pacific. The Columbia River rises in the mountains of southeastern British Columbia
and flows south into the United States. Hydroelectric plants operate at several points on
Agriculture accounts for 3 %
of Canadas GDP. Canada has about 300,000 farms. The average farm size is 232
hectares. Wheat, beef cattle, milk, and pigs combine to account for more than half of
Canadas total farm income. Other leading products include barley, chickens and eggs,
maize, and rapeseed. More than three-fourths of Canadas farmland is in the Prairie
Provinces. Saskatchewan produces more than half of Canadas wheat, and farmers in
Alberta and Manitoba grow most of the rest. Barley, flaxseed, oats, rapeseed, and rye grow
in a belt north of Canadas wheat-growing areas.
Canada is extraordinarily rich
in water resources. Almost 25% of all surface fresh water in the world is in Canada. The
country has more water per capita than any other large country in the world. The following
table summarizes water withdrawal and consumption from the year 1981 to 1991.
Table : Water
Withdrawal by use and consumption, in million cubic meters
In 1991, for an estimated
Canadian population of 28 million and a total water consumption of 5,357 million cubic
meters, each Canadian consumed 191.3 cubic meters of water per year or about 0.52 cubic
meters per person per day. Of the total water withdrawn in 1991, agriculture accounted for
8.8 per cent and this proportion has remained fairly constant since 1981. The prairie
region has the highest water use per person in Canada and the second highest total water
withdrawal. This is mainly because of irrigation to produce food for domestic consumption
and for export. Although, Canadian irrigated agriculture uses only 8% of the total
national water withdrawal, 77% of this amount is consumed through evaporation and lost to
Of Canadas 33.5 million
hectares of arable land, only 842,000 ha are irrigated. In the province with the most
irrigated land, Alberta, 40% of the agricultural output comes from 4 % of the
provinces arable land that is irrigated. Many of Canadas major crops are also
irrigated crops, such as cereals, oilseeds, alfalfa, non-cereal forage, sugar beets and
potatoes. As the price of land continues to rise, producers are looking to increase crop
yields per unit area of land. Irrigation is often the tool used to meet this objective.
The following table gives the extent of land irrigated in Canada, province-wise :
Table : Lands
Irrigated in Canada
Out of the total water use in
agriculture, 85% accounts for irrigation, while 15% for livestock watering. The overall
water use efficiency is 75% in the Eastern Irrigation District of Alberta, which is
typical for irrigated agriculture in western Canada. Irrigation is needed mainly in the
drier parts of Canada, such as the southern regions of Alberta, British Columbia, and
Saskatchewan (accounting for 84.5 of all irrigation in Canada). The southern regions of
Alberta and Saskatchewan receive less than 350 mm of precipitation per year. In general,
without irrigation, a summer fallow rotation must be practiced. Most irrigation in these
regions is by use of center-pivots, side wheel-role systems or flood irrigation for
grains, oilseeds, forage crops and sugar beets. In the provinces of Ontario and Quebec
which receive about 900 mm of precipitation every year, use of controlled drainage and/or
subsurface irrigation is prevalent. It has become common for farmlands that have
artificial subsurface drainage systems, to use these buried pipelines to deliver water to
the root zone.
About 8 million ha of land in
Canada is drained. Most of such land is under surface drainage. In Ontario and Quebec more
than 2.5 million ha are subsurface drained. These two provinces have very intensive
cereal, grain, forage and vegetable crop production where the soils have very low
hydraulic conductivities. In addition, the cropland is very flat and the region (eastern
Canada) experiences high amounts of precipitation that occurs mostly during the spring
snowmelt period and the fall. Since the soils are very heavy, mainly clays and clay loams
with some fine sands and silts, and with the conditions described above, artificial
subsurface drainage is necessary. Surface drainage consists mainly of open field ditches,
main drains, land leveling or smoothing, bedded lands and ridge and furrow cropping.
Subsurface drainage consists of mostly corrugated plastic pipe systems installed to an
average depth of about 1.2 m below the soil surface. Generally, 75 or 100 mm diameter
pipes are used for lateral drains, and the collectors are 100 mm in diameter and increase
as the area drained increases. Most collector outlets are 250-300 mm diameter.
Irrigation may lead to water
quality problems. Improper irrigation practices may degrade the soil structure and quality
(soil salinity problems), thus compounding many of the water quality issues that are
associated with agriculture. Challenge before the water resources sector in Canada is to
minimize the negative effect of agriculture and agri-food sector on the water quality and
increase water use efficiency. To address these concerns, water laws and policies exist in
Canada. For example, the Federal Irrigation Act is the original water law in Western
Canada; Water Resources and the Environmental Protection Acts in Ontario; while in Quebec
a new water management policy is being prepared by taking a holistic view towards water
resources management in the province of Quebec.
In Canada, 10 themes are being
considered for integrated water management. These are sustainability, stewardship,
ecosystem approach, enhancing effectiveness and efficiency, information and understanding,
partnerships and stakeholders, impact assessment, adaptive management, anticipation and
prevention, and alternative dispute resolution. Several provinces including Quebec and
Ontario are undertaking integrated watershed management projects. Agricultural producers
are being encouraged to develop and implement farm conservation plans. Some provinces now
require fertilizer management plans. The Canadian Constitution
gives the provinces the responsibility of managing the majority of all the natural
resources, including water. Although Canada may appear to have a favourable water
supply-demand balance, in reality the situation is disguised by wide variations. More than
60% of river flow goes north where only 10% of the Canadian population lives.
ICID and Canada
a member of ICID in 1956 and has been ever since pursuing the ICID mission
actively through its National Committee and its members. Mr. Aly M. Shady
has been the President of ICID for the tenure 1996-1999 and Dr. Chandra A. Madramootoo for the tenure 2008-2011. Five Vice Presidents
have also graced ICID as Vice Presidents. These are Dr. K.W. Hill
(1960-63), Dr. T.H. Anstey (1974-77), Mr. C.J. McAndrews (1980-83), Dr.
H.M. Hill (1987-90), Mr. Aly M. Shady (1990-93), and Dr.
Chandra A. Madramootoo (2000-2003).
The Canadian National
Committee of ICID (CANCID) has had the distinction of hosting the 27th IEC meeting in
Banff in 1976 and 40th IEC meeting in Ottawa in 1989. In conjunction with the 40th IEC
meeting, the 2nd Pan-American Regional Conference was also organized in 1989. ICIDs
18th International Congress on Irrigation and Drainage is also being hosted by CANCID at
Montreal in the year 2002.