Glossary of Water Management Terms


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Technical words are often used when talking about water. The Glossary of Water Management Terms brings these words together and describes them using everyday language. You can use this as a reference tool during Water Licence Reviews or Environmental Assessments in your community. Keep it close by so you can quickly look up water terms.

The Glossary of Water Management Terms is produced by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) and the Nunavut Water Board (NWB). INAC manages the waters of Nunavut and advises the Department's Minister on water materials. The NWB has responsibility for the regulation, use and management of water in Nunavut. Both INAC and the NWB work in partnership to promote sustainable development.

For more information, contact:

Indian and Northern Affairs Canada
Water Resources
Building 918, Box 100
Iqaluit, Nunavut X0A 0H0
tel: (867) 975-4550
fax: (867) 975-4585

Nunavut Water Board
P.O. Box 119
Gjoa Haven, Nunavut X0B 1J0
tel: (867) 360-6338
fax: (867) 360-6369

Acid Drainage

any drainage from mine workings, waste or tailings, with a low (acidic) pH


a measure of the capacity of a solution to neutralize bases


a horizontal entrance, or passage, in a mine


process of blowing air (or another gas such as carbon dioxide) through a liquid or solid


any biological process that occurs in the presence of oxygen; also applies to organisms that require oxygen to survive


a measure of the capacity of a solution to neutralize acids


any process that can occur without oxygen; also applies to organisms that can survive without oxygen


a close look at something to find out more about it; can involve looking closely at the individual parts of something and describing them


caused or produced as a result of human activity


term used to describe any organism growing in, living in, or frequenting water; some plants and animals that live in water are called aquatic species


an underground layer of rock or soil that contains water and can supply a large quantity of water to wells or springs


a written decision about the importance, size or value of something; for example, an environmental assessment may describe the value of arctic char after a study of the char, the fishermen, the method of fishing and the effect on the environment

Assimilative Capacity

the amount of pollutants that a water body may absorb while continuing to meet water quality standards


reduce in significance or concentration


the return of wastes or other material underground for disposal


solid rock underlying soil, gravel or loose boulders; the Canadian Shield is composed of bedrock

Best Management Practices

management or construction practices designed to be effective and reduce the impact on the environment


occurs when plants or animals collect contaminants in their tissues over time; when low amounts of contaminants are continually absorbed, they build up and can cause illness

Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD)

a laboratory test to measure the amount of oxygen consumed by microorganisms as they decompose organic matter; the test indicates the amount of organic material in a water sample


material that will decompose under natural, biological conditions and processes


the number of different plants and animals that live in a specific area


organisms that are used to detect changes in environmental pollutant levels, such organisms are usually sensitive to changes in their surroundings


an increase in concentration of a substance at each progressive link in the food chain (for example: berries birds foxes bears; the concentration of a contaminant such as lead would be highest in a large meat-eater)


a process to reduce contaminant levels in soil or water by using microorganisms or vegetation


the animals, plants, and microorganisms that live in a specific area

Buffering Capacity

the ability of a substance to resist an increase or decrease in pH


process of purifying/disinfecting water by adding chlorine


the average weather for a particular region and time period

Coarse Rejects

waste rock that is produced early in a mine's processing stage; the rock is not further crushed or concentrated because it contains little or
nothing of economic value


a product containing a valuable mineral or metal and from which most of the waste material has been removed


the process of separating a mineral from valueless host rock in preparation for further processing; also the amount of a substance in a given weight or volume of another material


a measure of the ability of a liquid to transmit electrical current or heat


protection, preservation, management, or restoration of a resource

Consumptive Water Use

when water is used and not returned to its source, such as through evaporation or by including it in a product


introduced species, substance or material which was either not previously present or was present in a lesser amount, and that may have a harmful
effect on the environment

Cumulative Effects

the combined environmental impacts that accumulate over time and space as a result of a series of similar or related individual actions,
contaminants, or projects


the process of permanently closing a facility/site; includes rehabilitation and plans for future maintenance of affected land and water


the process of permanently closing a facility/site; includes rehabilitation and plans for future maintenance of affected land and water

Diamond Drill

a piece of equipment used to drill through hard rock, the drill has a diamond on the drill bit and can cut through hard rock better than a metal
drill bit


to decrease the concentration of a substance by mixing it with another or by adding water


to destroy or prevent the growth of micro organisms


the relocation and/or containment, of unwanted materials


the process of dissolving a solid in a liquid


a community of plants, animals, and non-living things that exist in the same place


treated or untreated liquid waste material that is discharged into the environment from a structure such as a settling pond or treatment plant

Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)

a report submitted by a company to describe a project or development, the possible positive or negative impacts of its actions, and its plans to
reduce, mitigate or avoid these impacts; the information in the report is based on studies that have been carried out; the report is reviewed by
the Nunavut Water Board, Nunavut Impact Review Board, appropriate government agencies and the public


the wearing away of rock or soil by water, rain, waves, wind or ice; the process may be accelerated by human activities


the process by which water is converted to vapour (e.g. the heat of the sun converts puddles of rain water into vapour)

Fecal Coliform

bacteria that come from the intestinal tracts of mammals and are released in faeces


the process of separating liquids from solids by passing the liquids through a porous barrier (filter)


a chemical added to water that attaches to small particles and helps them sink; the material that settles on the bottom can be removed to improve
the clarity of the water


the vertical space remaining in a containment structure; the vertical distance between the surface of the water and the top of a dam or dyke


a huge mass of ice, formed on land by the compaction and re-crystallization of snow, that moves very slowly downslope or outward due to its own weight


liquid wastes from showers, baths, sinks, kitchens and domestic washing facilities; does not include toilet wastes


the water found beneath the Earth's surface that supplies wells and springs

Grab Sample

a single water or wastewater sample taken at a single point in time and location


the specific area in which a particular type of plant or animal lives

Hazardous Waste

a waste that contains any substance (solid, liquid, or gaseous) that is harmful or potentially harmful to life or the environment; this type of waste
includes toxic flammable, corrosive and oxidizing substances and is subject to special handling, shipping, storage, and disposal requirements


any substance containing carbon and hydrogen in various combinations (e.g. gasoline and oil)


the study of groundwater, with particular emphasis on the chemistry and movement of water


cycle the circulation of the Earth's waters from ocean to atmosphere to land and back to ocean


the science that deals with water, its properties, distribution and circulation over the Earth's surface


a structure or location used for confined storage, such as a pond, lake or reservoir


an unwanted chemical substance that is present within another substance or mixture

Intermittent Stream

a watercourse that does not flow continuously, or flows during spring and summer only

Inuit-Owned Land (IOL)

lands owned by a Designated Inuit Organization in accordance with section 19.3.1 of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement


a type of rock (produced by volcanic activity) that can contain diamonds

Kimberlite Pipe

an occurrence of kimberlite, so named because it is narrow and vertical in shape and resembles a pipe


water or other liquid that has washed (leached) from a solid material, such as a layer of soil or waste; leachate may contain contaminants


occurs when a liquid (e.g. water) passes through a substance, picking up some of the material and carrying it to other places; this can happen under ground in solid rock, or above ground through piles of material


the individual or organization to whom a licence is issued or assigned


a group of elements possessing certain qualities including metallic luster, malleability, ductility, high specific gravity and good conductivity of
heat and electricity; metals are mined from the Earth

Base metal

a general term applied to relatively inexpensive metals, such as copper, zinc, lead

Heavy metal

a general term applied to base metals that commonly occur in urban and industrial pollution

Precious metal

a general term applied to relatively expensive metals such as gold, silver, and platinum

Milling Process

process by which the valuable components of the ore are separated from waste material. Water is used and the waste is called tailings


water that is pumped or flows out of any under ground working or open pit


actions taken for the purpose of reducing the negative impacts on the environment of a particular land use or activity


raising the pH of an acidic material or lowering the pH of an alkaline material to a nearly neutral pH level (7)

Nunavut Land Claims Agreement (NLCA)

the "Agreement Between the Inuit of the Nunavut Settlement Area and Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada," including its preamble and
schedules, and any amendments to that agreement made pursuant to it


a mineral or solid material containing a precious or useful substance in a quantity and form that makes its extraction/mining profitable


material that must be removed to gain access to an ore, particularly at a surface (open pit) mine


occurs when a substance is exposed to air

Particulate Matter

very small, separate particles


soil or rock which remains below freezing point throughout the year, as in polar and alpine regions


a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a solution; the pH scale ranges from 0-14, with 7 representing neutral solutions; a solution with a
pH greater than seven is described as alkaline, and one with a pH below seven is called acidic; vinegar is an example of an acid, while household
bleach is an alkaline solution


a contaminant that negatively impacts the physical, chemical, or biological properties of the environment


the ground level entrance or opening to an under ground mine

Potable Water

water safe for human consumption

Processed Kimberlite

the portion of washed or milled kimberlite that is regarded as too poor to be treated further; this material has little or no economic value

Process Water

water that is used in an industrial process and is not intended for human consumption


the process of returning a site to its natural state, or a state that prevents environmental impacts or threats to human health and safety


the renewing or repairing of a natural system so that its functions and qualities are comparable to those of its original, unaltered state


water that is not absorbed by soil, and drains off the land into bodies of water. Can be caused by either rain or melt water


the solid material that settles from a liquid; for example mud will sink and settle at the bottom of a river or stream because it is heavier than water

Settling Pond

a natural or artificial water body used to contain wastewater in order to enable solids to be removed from it before it is released to the natural


toilet wastes and greywater

Sewage Disposal

the area and structures designed to contain Facilities and treat sewage


individual mineral particles of sand and clay that can be picked up by the air or water and deposited as sediment


the deposition, in a water body, of sediments (e.g. sand and clay) that appear as tiny suspended particles

Solid Waste Disposal Facilities

the area and associated structures designed to contain solid wastes


the quantity of material that dissolves in a given volume of water


an excavation for the purpose of catching or storing liquids such as greywater; the water drains into the soil

Suspended Solids

organic and inorganic particles, such as solids from wastewater, sand, and clay, that are suspended and carried in water


portions of washed or milled ore that are regarded as too poor to be treated further, as distinguished from concentrates, or material of value


poisonous, or otherwise directly harmful to life


particles, suspended in water or wastewater, that interfere with the passage of light; high turbidity makes water appear unclear or cloudy and is harmful to organisms such as fish


a substance that is useless to the organism or system that produces it and requires disposal

Waste Disposal Facilities

facilities designated for the disposal of liquid or solid wastes

Waste Rock

all rock materials, except ore and tailings, that are produced as a result of mining operations

Water Quality

the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of water

Water Quality Standards

fixed limits of certain chemical, physical, and biological parameters in a water body; water quality standards are established for various uses
of water (e.g. drinking)

Water Table

the level below where the ground is saturated with water

Water Use

whenever water is used by an activity or organism, either in the place it is found or by withdrawing it


the area of land from which rainfall (and/or snow melt) drains to a single point. Ridges of higher ground generally form the boundaries between
watersheds, and at these boundaries, rain falling on one side flows toward the low point of one watershed, while rain falling on the other side
flows toward the low point of a different watershed


the process by which particles, rocks and minerals are altered upon exposure to surface temperatures and pressure, air, water, wind and biological activity


land that is saturated with water or submerged, at least during most of the growing season; wetlands generally include swamps, marshes and bogs

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