Examining ground and surface water changes in response to environmental variables, land use dynamics, and socioeconomic changes in Canada

Yuanhui Zhu, Soe W. Myint, Danica Schaffer-Smith, David J. Sauchyn, Xiaoyong Xu, Joseph M. Piwowar, Yubin Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Canada's abundant and high-quality water resources support a growing human population, as well as thriving industrial and agricultural economies. However, recent intense drought conditions have raised concerns for current water resource availability. Patterns of long-term ground and surface water (GSW) changes, and their response to environmental conditions, land-use dynamics, and socioeconomic changes are not well-understood across this large and diverse country. To address this crucial gap, we identified regions of ground and surface water (GSW) changes in all the Provinces of Canada between 2002 and 2016 from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) and Global Land Data Assimilation System (GLDAS) datasets. We explored the relationships between GSW changes and environmental, socioeconomic, and land-use dynamics over time. We found that all the Provinces of Canada gained a net 4.46 mm Liquid Water Equivalent (LWE) per year, equivalent to a total increase of 66.9 mm LWE. GSW increases were significantly associated with the normalized difference vegetation index and evapotranspiration rates. In contrast, GSW declines were significantly related to deforestation rate, urban expansion, and economic development (median household income). Despite apparent widespread post-drought recovery detected from 2002 to 2016, the rapid GSW declines were also observed in almost all of Western Canada and part of Ontario, amounting to a net loss of 66.13 mm. This indicates that a pronounced drought had emerged. It is anticipated that Canada will be experiencing more frequent and severe droughts under ongoing climate change and increasing demand for water resources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number115875
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
StatePublished - Nov 15 2022


  • Canada
  • Drought
  • Environment issues
  • Ground and surface water changes
  • Land use dynamics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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