Canadian Water Attitudes Study: Climate change ranked the top threat to our fresh water

But three-quarters of Canadians do not believe they live in an area prone to drought or flood

TORONTO, May 18, 2016 /CNW/ - Across the globe, awareness of the devastating impacts of climate change on our environment has never been higher. Canadians' recognition of this issue was confirmed in a study released today by RBC, revealing that 21 per cent of respondents rank climate change as the number one among threats to Canada's fresh water supply. This is up significantly from 2010 when just seven per cent rated climate change as a top threat.

Despite this, the ninth annual RBC Canadian Water Attitudes Study, conducted by GlobeScan this spring, raises alarm bells over our acceptance of personal vulnerability to extreme weather events. Results show that three-quarters of Canadians feel that the area they live in is not prone to flood or drought. In contrast however, historical climate records and Canada's Drought Monitor show that almost all areas across the country have experienced drought at one time or another over the past decade. Also, with the frequency of severe storms on the rise, Canadians are experiencing more intense rainstorms, wind events and flooding.

The study also revealed that just over one half of respondents have recently seen more stories about flooding and drought in the news. Despite this, Canadians are less prepared to deal with the effects of flooding and drought than other adverse weather events: only three-in-10 are worried about flooding and just over one-third (37 per cent) are prepared to cope with it.

"Awareness is important, but this study reinforces the fact that we need to re-assess our vulnerability and better prepare for how global warming will impact us all," said Robert Sandford, EPCOR chair, Water & Climate Security, United Nations University. "What we've witnessed with various recent catastrophic events, is the powerful effect of temperature fluctuations on our local weather and water. Sadly, we are not immune to the ravages of climate disruption."

Sandford added that new global temperature data released by NASA has put March 2016 at a new record temperature for that time of year. This marked the 11th month in a row to set a new global high temperature record.

Canadians See Fresh Water as the Country's Most Important Natural Resource
About half of Canadians (49 per cent) rank fresh water as Canada's most important natural resource, ahead of oil and gas (20 per cent), agricultural land (15 per cent), forests (12 per cent), and base metals and fisheries (each at one per cent).

What is threatening Canada's most important natural resource? Canadians believe that in addition to climate change, other threats to fresh water include the illegal dumping of toxins (11 per cent stating it is the biggest threat to fresh water) and the run-off of pollutants from land to water (eight per cent citing it as the top threat).

The good news is that there are hundreds of organizations working to protect Canada's fresh water. RBC's Blue Water Project – a 10-year global charitable commitment of $50 million – helps fund projects across the country. Initiatives range from water education programs in Calgary, and habitat preservation and rehabilitation efforts on the Great Lakes, to drinking water protection programs in Quebec.

One-in-Four Canadians have Experienced a Boil Water Advisory
The study also shed light on Canada's drinking water quality. Nearly one-quarter of respondents have lived under a boil water advisory and 83 per cent are very or somewhat concerned about fresh water conditions on First Nations reserves. Despite this, 84 per cent of Canadians report having confidence in the quality of their homes' tap water.

Infrastructure Investment a Priority to Protect Water Quality
Nine-in-10 Canadians (92 per cent) think that developing stricter rules and standards to manage water use by industry and municipalities is the best way that Canada can protect and better manage fresh water. Increased government funding for infrastructure improvements is seen as a priority, with respondents identifying water treatment systems, drinking water supply, sewage collection and treatment and upgrades to existing infrastructure as being among the most important.

About the 2016 RBC Canadian Water Attitudes Study
The 2016 Canadian Water Attitudes Study included an online survey administered by GlobeScan between March 24 and April 11, 2016. It included a sample of 2,194 Canadian adults from GMI's Canadian panel. Quotas and weighting were employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample's composition reflects the adult population according to Canadian census data, and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. Results were weighted by gender, age, region and community size. The sample includes a minimum of 200 respondents in each of Calgary, Montreal, Vancouver and Winnipeg, and a minimum of 300 in Toronto. 178 interviews were completed in Halifax. The margin of error for a strict probability sample for a sample of this size (n=2,194) would be ± 2.2 per cent 19 times out of 20.

About the RBC Blue Water Project
The RBC Blue Water Project is a historic, wide-ranging, 10-year global commitment to help protect the world's most precious natural resource: fresh water. Since 2007, RBC has pledged nearly C$44 million to more than 740 charitable organizations worldwide that protect watersheds and promote access to clean drinking water, with an additional $8.8 million pledged to universities for water programs. The RBC Blue Water Project is focused on supporting initiatives that help protect water in towns, cities and urbanized areas. For further information, visit www.rbc.com/bluewater.

RBC helps communities prosper, supporting a broad range of community initiatives through donations, community investments, sponsorships and employee volunteer activities. In 2015, we contributed more than $121 million to causes around the world.

SOURCE RBC

For further information: Please contact: Joanne D'Souza, Argyle Public Relationships, 416-968-7311 ext. 236, jdsouza@argylepr.com; Jason Graham, RBC Communications, 416-383-5783, jason.graham@rbc.com

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