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2002 Water — Co-winner 2

Regional Municipality of York, Ontario

Water for Tomorrow Student Education Program

Population: 792,150

Water conservation devices and technology will take a community only so far in protecting its water resources. It is vital that consumers also are educated, and what better way to start than with youth? The Water for Tomorrow program was developed for the grade 7 and 8 science curriculum and, as of 2002, has been delivered to 30,000 students. Resources, such as a teacher's manual and student handbook, are easy to use. Although long-term benefits are often difficult to quantify, the Regional Municipality of York estimates that the program will save several hundred thousand cubic metres of water each year, which has a financial value of over $150,000. These savings mean that the $450,000 it has cost to deliver the program since its inception in 1998 will have been recovered in less than three years.


The Regional Municipality of York adopted an official plan, Vision 2021, in 1994. It described the shape and direction for growth of the region and emphasized the protection of its natural resources.

In July 1997, as part of its commitment to a healthy environment, the region asked United Utilities Canada Limited to complete a long-term water project master plan to identify strategies to meet anticipated water demand to 2036. The plan identified four primary activities:

  • a residential/commercial retrofit program;
  • an industrial/institutional audit program;
  • a leakage reduction program; and
  • a public education program (which became the Water for Tomorrow program).

In 1998, several more action areas were identified in the official plan that addressed other sustainability initiatives. These included a thorough analysis of the public transit system, options to increase the region's forest cover and acquire more green land, and a "corporate model for clean air" initiative. All of these activities support the region's commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as participants in FCM's Partners for Climate Protection. In June 2002, the region began a process to amend its official plan to the year 2026.


  • The Water for Tomorrow program was delivered to over 30,000 students between 1999 and 2002. By the end of the program in 2005 it is anticipated that 60,000 students will have benefited from the program at a cost to the region of $6.80 per student.
  • Teacher feedback indicates that they appreciate the comprehensive package of information, which does not require them to do any photocopying or producing of overheads.
  • The region used the American Water Works Association's estimates that a utility can expect savings of four to five per cent from ongoing education, on top of a water efficiency program. That translates into savings of about $150,000 per year. The cost to develop and deliver the program is $450,000, which means the payback period is less than three years.

Lessons Learned

  • Getting the early support of the school boards was critical. Teachers and curriculum advisors provided input into the resource materials as well as important feedback that was used in the updated package.
  • "Off-the-shelf" products were available, but by preparing its own materials, York tailored the program to local issues and challenges.



  • York District School Board
  • York District Catholic School Board
Page Updated: 21/12/2015