TORONTO, 20 March 2017 – Today, as Canada Water Week kicks off across the country, RBC released its 10th annual Canadian Water Attitudes Study—an in-depth examination of how Canadians think, feel, and act in regard to our fresh water. The story that has emerged is both complex and enlightening. On one hand, it confirms how much Canadians value our water and how integral our lakes and rivers are to our national identity; on the other, it reveals a troubling carelessness with a resource Canadians still consider unlimited in its abundance.
The study, conducted by GlobeScan, took place in January, the same month that scientists announced 2016 as the hottest year on record. The findings show startling contradictions between what Canadians know to be true about the impact of climate change on water, and what they continue to believe about Canada’s water wealth. For example:
According to Robert Sandford, EPCOR Chair for Water Security at the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health, two factors may help explain these disconnects.
“First, I think we’re dealing with a degree of denial. It’s challenging for us, as Canadians, to reconcile our long-held myth of limitless water abundance with the very real physical threats we’re hearing about and even experiencing.”
“Second, while Canadians treasure our water, we have little appreciation for what it is worth and how valuable it is to our economy and economic competitiveness.”
While Canadians and the Canadian economy depend heavily on both water and energy, we treat the two very differently. According to the RBC study, Canadians rate technological advances to save energy as more important than advances to save water. Canadians are also more likely to focus their personal efforts on energy conservation over water conservation. Why? It likely comes down to dollars and cents; 79 per cent of those who take action to save energy do it to save money, while less than 20 per cent do it to protect the environment. When it comes to water conservation, those figures are virtually reversed.
“We don’t pay the real costs of the water we use—neither the costs necessary to transport and treat it, nor the environmental costs of wasting it. As a result, we’ve come to believe that water is cheap. There’s no incentive to use less of it,” Sandford concludes.
Sandford is hopeful that 2017 will mark a turning point in Canadian water attitudes. “I think many of our tensions around water are coming to a head,” he says. That is important, because we cannot change our actions until we change our minds.
Based on its decade of research into Canadian Water Attitudes, RBC offers three recommendations that could significantly help shift our collective mindset:
“Anyone who has studied Canada’s history knows that we built this country on its water and waterways,” says Sandford. “Will those same waters define us and our prosperity over the next 150 years? That’s up to us.”
The 2016 Canadian Water Attitudes Study included an online survey administered by GlobeScan between January 4th – 25th , 2017. It included a sample of 2,017 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. 119 interviews were completed in Halifax. The margin of error for a strict probability sample for a sample of this size (n=2,017) would be ± 2.2 per cent 19 times out of 20.
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 over C$49 million to more than 770 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. In 2008, RBC launched the RBC Canadian Water Attitudes Study, polling Canadians about their attitudes towards water—to see if the serious water issues around the world were having an impact on how we use and think about water, and tracking whether our attitudes are changing.
GlobeScan is an evidence-led strategy consultancy focused on stakeholder intelligence and engagement. .
For more information, please visit www.GlobeScan.com
Jason Graham, RBC Communications, RBC
Tel: +1 416-383-5783
Stacy Rowland, Director, Public Relations and Communications, GlobeScan
Tel: +1 416 992 2705