Global Water Worries


Water worries mount around the world — including in Canada

Population growth and changing climate are putting water supplies at risk

This is part of our series Water at Risk, which looks at Cape Town’s drought and some potential risks to the water supply facing parts of Canada and the Middle East. Read more stories in the series.

A family negotiate their way through caked mud around a dried-up section of the Theewaterskloof dam near Cape Town in January. The dam’s reservoir supplies most of Cape Town’s potable water and is dangerously low as the city faces Day Zero, the point at which taps will run dry and rationing must begin in the city of nearly four million people.

(Mike Hutchings/Reuters)

Planning for Day Zero

After a third consecutive year of drought, Cape Town residents have been asked to reduce their water consumption to 50 litres a day. If reservoir levels drop below 13.5 per cent capacity, the taps will be turned off, forcing people to collect a maximum daily ration of 25 litres from one of 200 sites.

(Lily Martin/CBC)

A warmer and drier Arctic

Growing populations and climate change are putting stress on water supplies around the world, including in Canada. According to a recent study, Iqaluit may face a water shortage within five years, owing to a growing population in Nunavut’s capital and the rapidly warming climate in the Arctic.

(Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press) (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Mountain evidence

Snowfall in the Rocky Mountains is the source of water for tens of millions of people across North America. “The water from this mountain range flows into the Arctic Ocean and the Pacific and the Atlantic, so what happens here matters for the whole continent,” says John Pomeroy, a hydrologist who has been studying the snowpack for nearly 15 years.

(Erin Collins/CBC)

Disappearing glaciers

In the past, glaciers provided a reliable source of water that could feed rivers in times of drought, but the warming climate has shrunk icefields in places like Glacier National Park in Montana, which contains the headwaters of the Milk River in Alberta.

(Matt Mills McKnight/Reuters)

A river run dry

During a drought in 2001, the Milk River ran dry. Last year, farmers in the southern Alberta area were told to stop irrigating their crops after Aug. 3.

(Terry Clayton)

Saving the rainy days

Vancouver is known for its wet weather, but the city has had to place restrictions on water use every summer since 2015, when a severe drought followed a winter with little snowfall in the mountains. The local government is planning to lower intake pipes in reservoirs in anticipation of depleted reservoirs. New water sources and additional dams are under consideration to address the growing population and changing climate.

(Andy Clark/Reuters)

Raising the Dead

Water levels in the Dead Sea, between Jordan and Israel, have been dropping by more than a metre a year. Jordan, already suffering from depleted reservoirs and a lack of rainfall, hopes to replenish its water supply by taking part in project with Israel to desalinate water from the Red Sea and pump it into the Dead Sea.

(Derek Stoffel/CBC)

Water at Risk: Read more stories in the series