On this journey to the Arctic, I have been very interested to learn whether indigenous people are concerned about the security of their fresh water supply. In speaking with local citizens, I could not find anyone who seemed troubled about the quantity or quality of their water supply. They felt that the abundance of ice around them guaranteed a clean supply for their foreseeable future.
However, climate change is indeed having an affect on water security and future supplies. Melting glaciers mean that the location and quantity of water supplies is shifting. Seasonal precipitation is dropping and evapotranspiration is increasing. As the permafrost melts, rivers and lakes sometimes disappear unexpectedly.
Quality of water supplies is also impacted. Shoreline erosion brings salty water inland. Increased global access to the Arctic leads to resource development that is accompanied by manmade pollutants and other impacts. Melting permafrost also leads to a release of natural pollutants such as methane and additional greenhouse gases. Then as resource development brings a population northward, their need for food, water and energy will further tap into clean water resources. The future is uncertain in terms of water security but I feel that an emphasis on water literacy will be important to add to the educational system. People need to understand where their water will come from and how it might be depleted or polluted from climate change and other global influences such as industrialization of the north.
Last night I gazed down on the massive ice sheet in Ilulissat Greenland. I recalled my first experience seeing as glacier as a child. My father and I hiked on top the Columbia Ice Fields in Canada. The remarkable foot of ice extending down the mountain pass has receded dramatically. The location where I got my boot stuck in glacial goop is a long hike from the end of the ice field. I have seen dramatic climate change in my time. What will the second half of my life bring and more importantly, how can I help people to prepare for it?
For further reference, please read:
Climate change and water security with a focus on the Arctic – Birgitta Evengard, Jim Berner, Michael Brubaker, Gert Mulvad, and Boris Revich.
Norman E, Bakker K, Cook C, Dunn G, Allen D. Water security: a primer. A Policy Report–Fostering Water Security in Canada. 2010. Available from: http://www.watergovernance.ca/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/WaterSecurityPrimer20101.pdf. ISBN 978-0-88865-698-8.
ACIA – Scientific Report. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press; 2004. ISBN:9780521865098.
Vörösmarty CJ, McIntyre PB, Gessner MO, Dudgeon D, Prusevich A, Green P, et al. Global threats to human water security and river biodiversity. Nature. 2010;467:555–61.