The two major water users in Saskatchewan are the agriculture industry and municipalities. Agriculture uses about 67% of fresh water. Communities use about 21%. Other water users include industry (6%), mining (3%), thermal power production (2%), and the oil and gas industry (1%).
The major water uses in agriculture are for irrigation and livestock. In use on about 137,000 hectares of land, irrigation is by far the single largest water user in the province. About 550 million cubic metres of water or two-thirds of total water withdrawals in the province are diverted for irrigation. Most irrigation water comes from Lake Diefenbaker.
Large livestock operations are also significant water users. For example, a 2,500 sow farrow-to-finish barn would use about 120,000 litres per day. For cattle in feedlots, usage is about 45 litres/head/day (10 gallons/head/day). Currently, there are approximately 200,000 head in feedlots and demand is between 1.5 and 2 billion litres.
Canada uses more water per person than any other nation, except the United States. Between 1972 and 1991, water use per person increased by 50 percent. The average urban Canadian uses 343 litres per capita per day residentially. In Saskatchewan, average residential daily per capita use was 293 litres per day in 2003. When considering all community uses (commercial, recreational and industrial systems found within a municipality), the average use for 2003 was 375 litres per capita per day.
Residential water use accounts for about 70 percent of all municipal use. Eighty-five percent of residential use is indoor and 15 percent outdoor. Flushing the toilet accounts for 45 percent of indoor residential water use. Bathing accounts for another 30 percent.
Water scarcity is a world-wide concern. Less than one percent of the water on the planet is useable freshwater. As world population expands, people use an ever-larger portion of the available freshwater. In fact, humanity has become a significant player in the global hydrological cycle. Worldwide, people use 54 percent of accessible run-off water. In a number of major river basins, all the water in withdrawn from the river before it reaches the sea.
Increasing human demand, combined with climate change, is making freshwater scarce in many areas. Already, about one fifth of the planet's population, more than a billion people, do not have enough clean, fresh water to meet their basic needs. Some 2 billion people in forty-eight countries are expected to be water scarce by the middle of this century. According to a worst case scenario, as many as 7 billion people in sixty countries could be water-scarce.