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Albertans Are the Only Canadians Who Think Oil Is More Important Than Water, Says Survey

Not surprisingly, Calgary and Montreal have very different answers to the question, "What is our most important natural resource?"
May 22, 2016, 5:00pm

Despite first-hand experience, Calgarians care the least about floods. Photo by Flickr user Raymond Wong

This article originally appeared on VICE Canada

"Water is the scarce resource that will define the 21st century, much like plentiful oil defined the last century."

Powerful investment types have been saying stuff like this for years. The above quote came from a New York Times article last fall, said by one of the partners of a $500 million hedge fund called Water Asset Management. Before that it was Goldman Sachs and the CEO of Dow Chemical back in 2008.

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Put this line to any average Canadian and they'll probably agree—unless you're asking an Albertan, who'll probably bet hard on another century of the flammable stuff. That's more or less the findings of a recent Royal Bank of Canada study on "water attitudes." The survey released this week asked Canadians how much they value fresh water, oil and gas, forests, and other natural resources, and the answers were pretty much what you'd expect.

For the near-decade that RBC has been conducting this survey, fresh water has been seen as Canada's most important resource "by far." That's true across all provinces and major cities—except for Alberta and Calgary.

Only 29 percent of Albertans said fresh water is Canada's most important natural resource, with 52 percent choosing oil ahead of water. In Calgary, headquarters for Suncor and other energy giants, 55 percent of survey respondents chose oil, 28 percent chose water.

Meanwhile, in the rest of Canada, an average of 49 percent of respondents said fresh water is the most precious thing we've got. Winnipeggers are most likely to rate water as Canada's top resource, with 62 percent.

Despite being the home of one of Canada's worst floods, Calgary was also least concerned about water quality and flooding issues. Residents cared less about extreme weather causing droughts or flooding (60 percent "somewhat" or "very" concerned compared to the 63 percent average), or the quality of lakes, rivers, and streams (65 percent vs. 79 percent average).

Torontonians were most concerned about extreme weather and lake water quality at 70 and 84 percent, respectively.

Though it's not exactly groundbreaking that Albertans love their petroleum products, the study did come with at least one surprise. Young people were actually more likely to rate oil most important compared to older respondents.

Twenty-two percent of those surveyed aged 18 to 34 said oil and gas is Canada's top resource, while only 20 percent of people aged 35 to 55 said the same. The crowd over 55 years ranked oil even lower at 18 percent.

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