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Water is a key component in our global ecosystem. Many countries including Canada are recognising the multifaceted problems associated with decades of poor management of this under-valued resource. (For example, in 2005 Statistics Canada reported that 36.5% of Canada's freshwater quality monitoring sites rated as poor or marginal.)

Factors contributing to poor water quality include contamination from urban and agricultural runoff, disposal of raw sewage into waterways, inadequate wastewater treatment, toxic levels of phosphates from detergents and phosphate fertilizers, algae die-off, industrial discharges and contaminant spills.

Moreover, habitat destruction in upper watersheds results in reductions in both water quality and quantity. This is exacerbated by river "engineering" and drainage activities for industrial or agricultural development. (For example, according to Ducks Unlimited, as much as 70 per cent of Canada's original wetlands have been destroyed in some areas of the country.) Unsustainable consumption patterns combined with entrenched politics affecting water use regulation and licensing further complicate the problem by creating heavy competition over water resources.

IRIS works with its clientele (municipalities, provincial authorities, conservation organisations, industry and business, community groups, farmers and landowners) to improve water management practices and procedures to protect our rivers, wetlands, lakes, oceans, groundwater and glaciers.
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