Spatial distribution and sustainability implications of the canadian groundwater resources under changing climate

Ahmad Zeeshan Bhatti, Aitazaz Ahsan Farooque, Qing Li, Farhat Abbas, Bishnu Acharya

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Groundwater availability, utilization, sustainability, and climate change implications were assessed at regional and provincial scales of Canada. It remains an unexplored resource, estimated to be renewing between 380 and 625 km3/year. However, the provinces have initiated developing their quantitative and qualitative databases for their accurate inventory. Sustainable groundwater availability at the national scale was estimated as 19,832 m3/person/year (750 km3/year), with high regional variations ranging from 3949 in the densely populated Prince Edward Island (PEI) province to 87,899 in the thinly populated Newfoundland and Labrador (NFL). It fulfills 82%, 43%, and 14% of water requirements of the rural population, irrigation, and industry, respectively. It is the potable water source for more than 9 million people countrywide (24% of the population), and provinces of Quebec, and Ontario (1.3 million people), and PEI (0.15 million people) particularly depend on it. It is mostly a free or nominally charged commodity, but its utilization was found to be well under sustainable limits (40% of recharge) at the provincial scales, i.e., under 4% for all the provinces except New Brunswick (NB), which also had just 8% extraction of sustainable availability. Nevertheless, localized issues of quantitative depletion and qualitative degradation were found at scattered places, particularly in Ontario and Quebec. Climate change impacts of warming and changing precipitations on groundwater underscored its stability with some temporal shifts in recharge patterns. In general, increased recharge in late winters and springs was observed due to reduced frost and more infiltration, and was somewhat decreasing in summers due to more intense rainfall events.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9778
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Canada
  • Climate change
  • Groundwater
  • Recharge
  • Sustainability
  • Water availability


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