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Water security for northern peoples: review of threats to Arctic freshwater systems in Nunavut, Canada


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Water is a fundamental component of the ecological integrity, economic development, and sustainability of northern regions, as well as the health and well-being of northerners. However, environmental change has altered fragile thermodynamic relationships of northern ecosystems by shifting seasonal transitions, altering precipitation regimes, reducing snow and ice cover, and increasing exposure to solar radiation. This has exacerbated existing pressures on freshwater supply that have arisen from increased resource development, inappropriate or inadequate infrastructure, population stress, erosion of Indigenous knowledge systems and culture, and inadequate policy and management. Since water governance systems in northern Canada are under rapid evolution, we examine key vulnerabilities to both the quantity of accessible freshwater and the quality of available freshwater resources for communities in Nunavut, Arctic Canada, within a water security framework. While the concept of water security is often approached from a human-centred perspective, we note the importance of integrating a biophysical perspective. We also compare information and experiences of the other northern regions to assess how water security is conceptualized and addressed across northern Canada, identifying biophysical and social vulnerabilities as well as implications for governance and adaptation.
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Water security for northern peoples: review of threats to Arctic
freshwater systems in Nunavut, Canada
Andrew S. Medeiros
Patricia Wood
Sonia D. Wesche
Michael Bakaic
Jessica F. Peters
Received: 27 July 2016 / Accepted: 21 November 2016 / Published online: 26 December 2016
Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016
Abstract Water is a fundamental component of the eco-
logical integrity, economic development, and sustainability
of northern regions, as well as the health and well-being of
northerners. However, environmental change has altered
fragile thermodynamic relationships of northern ecosys-
tems by shifting seasonal transitions, altering precipitation
regimes, reducing snow and ice cover, and increasing
exposure to solar radiation. This has exacerbated existing
pressures on freshwater supply that have arisen from
increased resource development, inappropriate or inade-
quate infrastructure, population stress, erosion of Indige-
nous knowledge systems and culture, and inadequate
policy and management. Since water governance systems
in northern Canada are under rapid evolution, we examine
key vulnerabilities to both the quantity of accessible
freshwater and the quality of available freshwater resources
for communities in Nunavut, Arctic Canada, within a water
security framework. While the concept of water security is
often approached from a human-centred perspective, we
note the importance of integrating a biophysical perspec-
tive. We also compare information and experiences of the
other northern regions to assess how water security is
conceptualized and addressed across northern Canada,
identifying biophysical and social vulnerabilities as well as
implications for governance and adaptation.
Keywords Climate change Water security Arctic
Freshwater Environmental change
Freshwater Arctic ecosystems provide essential ecosystem
services, including access to clean freshwater for northern
communities. Arctic regions are historically characterized
by a multitude of shallow lakes, streams, and wetlands due
to impermeable permafrost that limits infiltration. How-
ever, recent warming has altered fragile thermodynamic
relationships of northern aquatic ecosystems by shifting
seasonal transitions, altering precipitation regimes, and
reducing snow and ice cover, which increases exposure to
solar radiation (Woo 2010). The consequence of polar
amplification of warming on northern freshwater ecosys-
tems includes a longer ice-free season potentially leading
to increased evaporative stress on lakes. Likewise, reduc-
tions in winter precipitation can lead to reduced snow and
ice melt contributions, destabilizing water balances across
much of the Arctic (Bouchard et al. 2013; Hodson 2013;
Lantz and Turner 2015). While the quantity of available
water is a growing issue for regions undergoing increased
evaporative stress, water quality is also a fundamental
concern due to ageing municipal water infrastructure, the
rapid growth and expansion of many Arctic communities,
and the risk of contamination from burgeoning industrial
and resource development (Instanes et al. 2016).
Editor: Juan Ignacio Lopez Moreno.
&Andrew S. Medeiros
Department of Geography, York University, Toronto,
ON M3J 1P3, Canada
Department of Geography, Environment and Geomatics,
University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON K1N 6N5, Canada
Department of Environmental Studies, York University,
Toronto, ON M3J 1P3, Canada
Department of Geography and Environmental Studies,
Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, ON N2L 3C5, Canada
Reg Environ Change (2017) 17:635–647
DOI 10.1007/s10113-016-1084-2
The confluence of environmental change and develop-
ment pressures in northern Canada has led to the voicing of
strong concerns over looming water crises and the sus-
tainability of local fisheries (Ford et al. 2006; Roux et al.
2011; Prno et al. 2011; Instanes et al. 2016). Expanding
populations, industrial and resource development, and
limited infrastructure has made sustainable water resources
a primary issue for northern peoples, which will intensify
into the future. Intact healthy freshwater ecosystems are
critically important for continued development, socio-
economic and cultural sustainability, and health and well-
being of northern peoples. Vulnerability to environmental
change in northern communities arises from changes in the
physical climate and environment, but also from poor
planning, inappropriate or inadequate infrastructure exac-
erbated by population stress, erosion of Indigenous
knowledge systems, weak political practices, and frag-
mentation of previously strong social networks (Ford et al.
2007). Likewise, policy-makers in Arctic regions face
additional challenges in obtaining accessible climate
change information relevant to their local jurisdiction
(Bring et al. 2015). Both mitigation of and adaptation to
environmental change rely on knowledge of existing con-
ditions, the direction of change, and the magnitude of
change (Ford and Smit 2004); however, decision-making
authority, political will, financial support, collaboration
among stakeholders, monitoring of change, the quality of
information gathered, and both the means and manner by
which it is applied are also important. As such, there is a
critical need to explicitly consider monitoring that incor-
porates both qualitative community observations and
quantitative measurements of the environment in strategic
planning processes in the Arctic (Nilsson et al. 2013b;
´rate et al. 2013). Finding effective ways to draw on
Indigenous knowledge of environmental change is partic-
ularly relevant and important in this context.
Given the existing and foreseen continued influence of
environmental change and development threats to fresh-
water resources in the Canadian Arctic, we explore the
current status and value of water quantity and quality in
this region, as well as the many implications for northern
peoples and sustainable water governance. The current
state of knowledge of the influence of environmental
change on northern ecosystems has been advanced by a
major synthesis of freshwater system science in the Arctic
(the Arctic Freshwater Synthesis; Prowse et al. 2015),
which included reviews of the role of freshwater specific to
the atmosphere (Vihma et al. 2016), oceans (Carmack et al.
2016), terrestrial hydrology (Bring et al. 2016), terrestrial
ecology (Wrona et al. 2016), and natural resources (In-
stanes et al. 2016). These works provide global-scale
context of how environmental change will influence water
security; however, they include limited focus at the
community scale. Our review complements broader-scale
analysis by focusing at a territorial level, more specifically
on Nunavut. This is a jurisdiction that faces important
water security issues while having received limited
research and policy attention in this area to date. Nunavut
was allocated a ‘‘D’’ rating—the lowest of all provinces
and territories—in a recent Ecojustice report for its lack of
source water protection and low water treatment standards
(Ecojustice 2011).
Our objectives are to (1) review how water security is
conceptualized and addressed in northern Canada, (2)
identify current threats to freshwater quality and quantity in
Nunavut, highlighting both biophysical and social vulner-
abilities, and (3) discuss implications for governance and
adaptation. Our narrative review is based on a broad search
of peer-reviewed literature using these keywords: Nunavut
AND water security, water quality, water quantity, water
management, OR water governance. We also draw on
(a) additional peer-reviewed and grey literature sources
that are more widely applicable to either water security in
general or water management or environmental change in
northern Canada in particular and (b) personal communi-
cations with Nunavut water managers and decision-makers.
Water security in northern Canada
Freshwater is a basic necessity for human survival and
well-being with strong commodity, amenity, and ethical
components. As such, humans are tied to the global
hydrological cycle, which is increasingly being stressed by
a range of natural and human-induced factors. Water
security is complex and affected by a diverse range of
biophysical, infrastructural, institutional, political, social,
cultural, and financial factors. It is central to other areas of
human security, particularly food and energy security (UN-
Water 2013). In addition to overuse and mismanagement,
climate change is increasing freshwater vulnerability in
regions across the globe, with the Arctic deemed particu-
larly sensitive (Bates et al. 2008). Water security as a
concept is relatively new, and it continues to evolve largely
in the international water and development realm, with
recent conceptions tending towards increased breadth and
inclusiveness of a range of dynamic dimensions (Lautze
and Manthrithilake 2012). Building on previous definitions,
the United Nations recently defined water security as ‘the
capacity of a population to safeguard sustainable access to
adequate quantities of acceptable quality water for sus-
taining livelihoods, human well-being, and socio-economic
development, for ensuring protection against water-borne
pollution and water-related disasters, and for preserving
ecosystems in a climate of peace and political stability’’
(UN-Water 2013: 1). Thus, operationally, we can
636 A. S. Medeiros et al.
conceptualize water quality, quantity, and sustainability as
key areas of focus for water management, to promote and
protect human health and well-being, socio-economic
development, and environmental sustainability.
Governance issues
The sourcing and allocation of water is a social decision,
and enhancing water security has become a governance
challenge (Pahl-Wostl et al. 2013: 677–678), particularly in
this era of environmental change. The framework for water
security recognizes not only that environmental change is
largely human-induced, but that human mismanagement of
the ecosystem has caused further damage. The approach to
water security and interactions between scales is a central
concern: ‘‘Human water security, when narrowly framed, is
often achieved in the short term at the expense of the
environment’ (Pahl-Wostl et al. 2013: 676). Moving
water governance to a global scale in conception and
implementation is an effort to address the ‘‘apparent failure
of local-scale management strategies to convey benefits
that accumulate within the global water commons’’ (Vo
¨smarty et al. 2010: 541). A global perspective has also
been advocated for equity purposes, for ‘‘the world’s
available freshwater resources are limited and unevenly
distributed’’ (Yang et al. 2013: 599).
There is significant variation in water governance
approaches across Canada’s provinces and territories, par-
ticularly with respect to drinking water, watershed man-
agement, and water rights (Hill et al. 2008). Since water is
different from other resources in that it is generally
undervalued and expensive to transport, water security
varies by region and is tightly tied to the surrounding
geography. Good water governance that integrates both
biophysical and social dimensions is deemed essential, and
models must be adapted to local, national, and regional
conditions and needs (UN-Water 2013). Moreover, in
Arctic Canada, local control and decision-making is a
critical issue in the context of colonialism and Indigenous
self-governance. As Inuit leaders Terry Audla and Duane
Smith recently highlighted,
it is not only audacious but ethically unacceptable in
the 21st century to issue a public declaration to guide
the research and development of the circumpolar
Arctic, indeed to ‘save’ the Arctic for the common
good of ‘humanity,’ while neglecting to even con-
sider engaging with the peoples and institutions of the
Arctic themselves. (Audla and Smith 2014:
The Arctic also has a specific history arising from the
failure of neocolonial modernist urban planning, which is
notable for its insensitivity to existing social arrangements,
lack of inclusion of Indigenous decision-making, and
implementation of systems developed for southern envi-
ronments that were inappropriate for northern environ-
ments (Farish and Lackenbauer 2009).
In the territorial north, the federal government maintains
the primary stewardship of water and natural resources
through Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
Canada (AANDC). Responsibility for the development,
implementation, and interpretation of all legislation and
policy relating to responsibilities for water management by
AANDC is outlined in Sect. 5of the DIAND Act (DIAND
2014). However, responsibility for various aspects of water
management, including the provision of safe drinking
water, has more recently been devolved to each of the three
territorial governments. Territorial legislation developed
for this purpose includes the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut
Surface Rights Tribunal Act (Government of Canada 2014)
under the disposition of the Nunavut Land Claims Agree-
ment (Nunavut Tunnagavik Ltd 2010), the amended
Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act (MVRMA
2014) in the NWT, and the Yukon Waters Act (Govern-
ment of Yukon 2003).
While similarities exist in terms of the types of issues
and challenges faced across the Canadian North, unique
dynamics must be addressed as each territory works to
improve its own water policy and governance. Currently,
Nunavut lacks a territory-wide water management policy
framework. Municipalities own and operate their respec-
tive water infrastructure and treatment systems, with
management and maintenance provided by the Department
of Community and Government Services (CGS) of the
Government of Nunavut (GN). Water use and waste dis-
posal must be licensed by the respective territorial licens-
ing boards or authorized through regulations. For Nunavut,
this mandate falls to the Nunavut Water Board (NWB).
Indeed, the NWB is regarded as the de facto regulatory
board responsible for freshwater resources; yet, several
obvious limitations exist regarding its ability to develop
broader water policies. As policy articulation is not the
focal point of specific licensing decisions, the NWB is
limited in its ability to analyse impacts and issues
extending beyond any given application.
To date, the Government of Nunavut has no specific
agency or person(s) in charge of freshwater resource policy
and management, and no policy development or planning
has occurred for climate change adaptation with regard to
freshwater resources. Indeed, much of the management,
operation, and planning behind freshwater resources falls
to offices in each of Nunavut’s three regions, the Kivalliq,
Kitikmeot, and Qikiqtaaluk (Baffin) with loose oversight
and a lack of inter-regional integration. The absence of
both policy guidance and territory-wide planning for water
use and management makes broader considerations such as
Water security for northern peoples: review of threats to Arctic freshwater systems in Nunavut637
addressing cumulative impacts very difficult. However, a
territorial freshwater strategy built around the principles of
water security is possible. In addition to a water safety
framework that includes infrastructure and human dimen-
sions (Kot et al. 2014), we suggest a framework that also
includes the natural environment (Fig. 1). As such, policy
and planning behind freshwater quantity and quality would
complement issues of governance (including public edu-
cation and effective contributions from Indigenous
knowledge systems) and distribution (maintenance, deliv-
ery, and reporting).
The Government of the Northwest Territories has taken
positive steps towards incorporating diverse stakeholder
perspectives to ensure a sustainable water supply to remote
communities despite limited infrastructure. The NWT’s
‘made-in-the-North’Water Stewardship Strategy (GNWT
2010) and Action Plan (GNWT 2011) were developed
through a collaborative process led by representatives from
Indigenous communities and the territorial government.
These documents build on the existing Drinking Water
Strategy (GNWT 2005); highlight the links among fresh-
water, healthy ecosystems and the social, cultural, and
economic well-being of NWT residents; and recognize the
essential role that rivers, lakes, streams and ponds play in
the life of northerners and Indigenous cultures. Both the
Strategy and Action Plan are living documents that
encourage adaptive management, including cooperation
and communication among water partners and the public;
effective research and monitoring to inform policy and
practice; effective use of both Western science and local
and Indigenous knowledge; responsible water use sup-
ported by guidance and regulation; and periodic evaluation
to assess progress and make changes where necessary
(GNWT 2010,2011).
The Yukon Territorial Government has followed suit
with its own Water Strategy and Action Plan, developed
with input from a range of stakeholders and released in
2014 (Government of Yukon 2014). The goal of the
Strategy is to achieve sufficient and sustained water
quantity and quality now and for the future for both
humans and nature, while allowing for sustainable use.
Both the Yukon and NWT are increasing efforts around
water monitoring and source water protection in recogni-
tion of the general lack of data, knowledge and under-
standing about territorial waters, as well as the challenges
of transboundary issues.
Fig. 1 Schematic of a freshwater management strategy for Nunavut in a water security framework
638 A. S. Medeiros et al.
Freshwater and northern peoples
Indigenous knowledge of the land, water, and climate has
historically linked Indigenous communities together and
formed the basis of understanding for northern life. Gen-
erations of individual and collective experience and
knowledge of travel on sea ice, lake and river crossings,
and in all types of weather have enabled the development
and evolution of intricate hunting, fishing, transportation,
recreation, and relational networks (e.g. inter-community
connections and food sharing networks) across vast and
challenging landscapes. Indigenous community members
rely on their knowledge of weather patterns; however,
increasingly variable and extreme weather conditions are
straining the ability of residents to safely navigate and
successfully hunt using both winter and summer routes,
adding unpredictability to everyday life (Gearheard et al.
Changes in river ice conditions, run-off, flow regimes,
and water levels can impede access to important fishing
areas and increase travel hazards (Fox 2002; Huntington
et al. 2005; Prno et al. 2011). These multiple, observed
hydrological changes are key touchpoints in the personal
experience of environmental change for northern residents
(Wesche and Armitage 2010) and reflect an inter-genera-
tional timeframe in which Indigenous residents track
multiple aspects of change in their environment. Two key
elements of survival, water security and food security, are
directly linked. For example, reduced water quantity and
sediment accumulation in rivers affect both plants and
animals, as well as access to important hunting and fishing
sites. Huntington et al. (2005) describe how low water
levels in the streams, rivers, and lakes surrounding Baker
Lake have prevented summer caribou hunting and impac-
ted fish stocks. Similarly, Kugaaruk residents reported
extreme limitations on fishing for lake trout and Arctic char
due to the drying of a nearby river (Nancarrow and Chan
Reductions in water levels also affect drinking water
availability, as many northern communities draw their
municipal water supply from surface water sources (Daley
et al. 2014; Bring et al. 2016). Water quality concerns also
change residents’ perceptions of their environment and the
way they use water resources in their daily lives. Residents
of many Arctic communities commonly drink untreated
water directly from a variety of natural sources, including
lakes, streams, and rivers in summer, and from lake ice,
icebergs, snow, and multi-year sea ice in winter (Nickels
et al. 2006; Martin et al. 2007; Daley et al. 2015). Warming
temperatures as well as both long-range and point-source
contamination from development pressure may inherently
increase the risk of relying on untreated water sources
(Bring et al. 2016; Instanes et al. 2016). Northern
communities may be vulnerable unless infrastructure is
developed to cope with the multiple climatic and anthro-
pogenic factors that impair the quantity and quality of local
drinking water supplies. To date, academic scholarship
shows limited focus on these issues in Nunavut and across
northern Canada.
Threats to water quantity
Arctic and subarctic ecosystems experience strong seasonal
controls on water availability and are thus particularly
sensitive to alterations in the hydrological cycle (Bring
et al. 2016). Northern watersheds are historically charac-
terized by relatively small amounts of run-off during the
dry summer due to low summer precipitation (Wrona et al.
2016). Most streams are only active during the short thaw
season and depend on spring melt-water (Church 1974;
French and Slaymaker 1993); thus, winter precipitation is
critical for the sustainability of Arctic lakes and ponds.
Likewise, late-lying snow is critical for both the aquatic
and terrestrial environments (Woo and Young 2014). If
regions experience particularly dry conditions, especially
due to lower snowfall, widespread desiccation can occur
(Abnizova and Young 2010; Bouchard et al. 2013). For
example, Smol and Douglas (2007) chronicle high Arctic
lakes that shifted to a negative precipitation–evaporation
water balance, leading to their complete desiccation for the
first time in millennia.
Environmental change and surface water
The health and sustainability of aquatic systems rely on the
flow of energy, which is highly dependent on the under-
lying hydrology, which is governed by the permafrost
horizon. Permafrost, perennially frozen ground that
underlies the active layer, controls the amount of space in
the soil matrix that is available to groundwater, as well as
the movement of water into drainage systems. Thus, the
permafrost horizon is arguably the most influential com-
ponent of the northern water cycle. Increased air temper-
atures result in higher soil and permafrost temperatures and
a northward movement of the permafrost boundary, espe-
cially in discontinuous permafrost zones (Serreze et al.
2000; Osterkamp and Romanovsky 1999). Where per-
mafrost thaw occurs, warming temperatures lead to a
deeper active layer, a longer thaw period, and increased
surface vegetation, which reduces surface water flow as
both infiltration and water storage capacity of the active
layer increase (Wrona et al. 2016). Therefore, a deepening
of the permafrost layer results in a larger portion of water
from streams and ponds entering into the soil horizon. This
can lead to the collapse of lake shorelines, as well as
Water security for northern peoples: review of threats to Arctic freshwater systems in Nunavut639
retrogressive thaw slumps (similar to landslides), where
swaths of soils and vegetation enter into aquatic systems
(Bring et al. 2016; Wrona et al. 2016).
Similarly, some small lakes and most Arctic ponds exist
because the permafrost isolates them from the regional
groundwater system or from surface flow (Edwardson et al.
2003). Climate projections indicate that a gradual deep-
ening of the permafrost layer will result in the disappear-
ance of the patchy Arctic wetland that is supported by
surface flow from late-lying snow banks (Rouse et al.
1997). Permafrost thaw is also linked to occurrences of
catastrophic drainage of Arctic lakes and ponds in some
areas (Smith et al. 2005; MacDonald et al. 2012; Lantz and
Turner 2015). As such, it is expected that these permafrost
isolated systems will undergo a reduction in their water
levels and have a greater interaction with the newly
exposed active layer as temperatures increase and per-
mafrost thaw occurs. This could have a direct consequence
on water availability in northern regions, which is exac-
erbated by increased water demand. Expanding popula-
tions, limited and ageing infrastructure, and high costs have
left many communities vulnerable to inadequate water
supply in a warming future (Instanes et al. 2016).
Local freshwater management
There are inherent risks of water shortages when a com-
munity only has one established water source. While Iqa-
luit and Rankin Inlet have above- and below-ground water
pipe utilidor systems, and Resolute Bay still relies on a
highly fragile utilidor system that was slated for decom-
missioning in 2011 (George 2009), a majority of Nunavut
communities deliver drinking water by truck. Each
household on trucked water delivery has its own
potable water storage tank, which varies in capacity, the
typical size being 1200 L (Daley et al. 2015). Small
household tanks and inadequate flow from over-burdened
pumping stations leaves many homes waiting for water
each day (Rohner 2014). Numerous households in Coral
Harbour, particularly those with larger families, reported
running out of water at least once per week (Daley et al.
Vulnerabilities also occur at the community scale. For
example, Arviat ran completely out of water in 2011 when
its reservoir leaked (CBC 2011). Igloolik suffered simi-
larly in 2015 when an unusually harsh winter left its water
supply lake without adequate spring recharge (CBC
2015a). Indeed, these water emergencies required
municipal operators to extract water from nearby lakes
without proper planning, filtration, screening, or treat-
ment. The humic water and concerns over nematode
parasites and fish entering household water tanks led to
boil-water advisories (CBC 2011,2015a,c). The effec-
tiveness of responses to these types of water crises is
limited by the lack of a cohesive freshwater policy and
management in Nunavut. Indeed, the GN Department of
Community and Government Services lack centralized
estimates of the water volume requirements for most
Nunavut communities.
While smaller communities that rely on trucked water
delivery are more susceptible to water shortages, both
Rankin Inlet and Iqaluit (where the majority of residents
are served by utilidor systems) have also had to quickly
adapt to looming water shortages. In 2010, the water sup-
ply lake for Rankin Inlet, Lake Nipissar, was deemed
insufficient to cope with the current population and
demand (Bakaic and Medeiros 2016). Residents have long
complained about the municipal water supply, which is
often turbid due to high particulate loading from the intake
of lake sediment and lack of filtration (D. Tootoo, pers.
comm. July 2008). In response to Lake Nipissar’s current
state of drawdown, the GN approved and began extracting
water from the nearby Char River outlet adjacent to Lower
Landing Lake and proposed the construction of a pipeline
to resupply Lake Nipissar during melt-season (June to
September). The proposal did not undergo environmental
screening as the Nunavut Land Claims agreement exempts
municipal projects; thus, only technical reviews of water
diversion from Lower Landing Lake were conducted
(Stantec 2014). Lower Landing Lake has a long history as a
landing site for floatplanes and as a disposal site for oil
drums that were used for refuelling (Rob Eno, pers. comm.,
April 2015), hundreds of which remain buried in the
shallow reaches of the lake (pers. observation, 2012).
While the drums were presumably mostly empty upon
burial, a number of chemical fuel additives can remain
(Touhill and James 1983). As such, limited planning,
consultation, and regulatory oversight have led to the use
of a potentially unsuitable source for the hamlet’s water
The capital of Nunavut, Iqaluit, is also currently
examining alternative sources for recharge of its main
water source, Lake Geraldine (a dammed reservoir). Iqaluit
is located on the south end of Baffin Island and is home to
over 7000. Iqaluit’s expanding population is the main
source of its freshwater stress; however, its topography and
limited suitability for permanent settlement are also key
contributors. When the location was chosen for a United
States Air Force Base in 1941, Iqaluit had been an Inuit site
for hunting and fishing under continuous seasonal use for at
least 4000 years (Samuelson 1998). Centred on the military
presence, a shift from nomadic usage towards a perma-
nently settled community occurred during the 1950s and
1960s (Farish and Lackenbauer 2009). The original water
supply source for the Air Force Base was insufficient for a
640 A. S. Medeiros et al.
large population, and there was little forethought even after
Iqaluit’s establishment as the capital about the future water
supply. With the expanding population and rapid devel-
opment, the City took drinking water concerns into con-
sideration when developing its 5-year plan in 2010, which
proposes to ‘‘ensure the protection of Lake Geraldine to
ensure adequate fresh drinking water for the future’’ (City
of Iqaluit 2010). However, considering Lake Geraldine’s
capacity to support 8300 people at current usage rates (City
of Iqaluit 2010), and a rapidly growing population of over
7000 people (Government of Canada 2012), the practicality
of maintaining this sole freshwater source is questionable
(Bakaic and Medeiros 2016). The City has identified the
Niaqunguk River (also known as the Apex River) as an
alternative. Inuit families have traditionally used this as an
untreated source of water; however, the watershed is being
encroached upon by urban growth. Numerous housing
developments as well as industrial and municipal projects
target this area, threatening water quality, with potential
health implications for residents.
Threats to water quality
Water quality issues arise from a range of natural and
human factors, with human activities being particularly
problematic. Legacy contamination from past projects,
localized development pressure from resources industries,
and community expansion and development can all stress
water resources (e.g. Fig. 2). Furthermore, residue from
industrial contaminants (e.g. pesticides and metals)
entering Arctic hydrological systems via long-range
transport from the south via air and water currents has
been a pressing problem for northern communities for
decades (Oehme 1991; Welch et al. 1991; MacDonald
et al. 2000).
Legacy contamination
Many northern communities have a history of military
presence, which can include abandoned mining operations
and industrial sites. For example, when the United States
Air Force Base in Iqaluit was de-commissioned in 1963,
much of the remaining diesel fuel, oil, and chemicals for
winterized mechanical operations (including persistent,
bioaccumulative, and toxic compounds such as polychlo-
rinated biphenyls) were simply buried in proximity to a
stream known as Carney Creek (Samuelson 1998). These
sites (known as ‘‘North 40’’ and ‘‘Lower Base’’) are a
continuous source of fuel and chemical seepage into the
water system, severely impairing water quality (Medeiros
et al. 2011) and biomagnifying through the food chain
(Dick et al. 2010). Indeed, the problem is long-standing, as
highlighted by the GN environmental inspector in 2003:
the latitude of this problem could be enormous.
[] it is potentially beyond the ability – both finan-
cial and in terms of in-house technical capacity – of
the GN to adequately address this issue on its own.
(Eno 2003).
While the contamination in Iqaluit from these legacy
sources has been well documented by inspectors and
reported by local media (Zarate 2010; CBC 2015b), the GN
has failed to address the issue. This is partly due to
‘questionable ownership’’ of the land and ‘‘inadequacy of
Canada’s environmental clean-up legislation’’ (Eno 2003),
as well as a cited lack of technical and financial capacity.
The limited capacity for waste disposal is a concern across
Fig. 2 Images of environmental management challenges from Nunavut; aCarney Creek (Airport Creek) in Iqaluit, Nunavut (photograph by:
A.S. Medeiros, 2015), bRankin Inlet’s ‘‘hazardous waste facility’’ (photograph by: A.S. Medeiros, 2007)
Water security for northern peoples: review of threats to Arctic freshwater systems in Nunavut641
the territory. The cost of transport and disposal is pro-
hibitive for many communities; therefore, hazardous waste
is commonly dumped in makeshift, open-air facilities with
no safety mechanisms to prevent spills, seepage, or even
public access. These areas are often adjacent to water
sources (Fig. 2a), raising concerns about possible con-
tamination of food and water supplies.
Resource development pressure
Recent and increasing focus on resource development in
the Canadian North has added additional stress to water
quality issues facing communities. Resource exploration
and extraction are now the main economic driver for ter-
ritorial governments, and both they and federal government
agencies have identified natural resources as a principle
advantage for the future growth of northern communities
(Vela 2012).
The disposal of mining wastes and tailings presents a
threat to surface and groundwater systems across northern
regions unless adequately controlled during and following
the operational period. Many mineral deposits have the
potential to generate acid, which dissolves metals that are
toxic to algae, benthic invertebrates, and fish, thus posing a
threat to ecosystem services associated with fishing and in
some cases also threatening drinking water supplies
´aume and Caron-Vuotari 2013). Currently, ‘‘best
mining practices’’ used by the resource extraction industry
suggest freezing tailings in permafrost in order to control
acidic drainage (Nunavut Regional Adaptation Collabora-
tive 2012). However, the same ‘‘best mining practices’’
acknowledge, but offer no solutions to, increased warming
in northern regions that may affect permafrost stability and
effluent containment. Furthermore, the economic pressure
associated with resource extraction has, for example,
motivated Environment Canada to re-designate fish habitat,
allowing mining companies to dump tailings waste into
once protected freshwater systems (De Souza 2012), which
can significantly alter stream biota (Bailey et al. 1998).
Decommissioning of resource development projects has
been particularly problematic across the Arctic. Mines
abandoned prior to complete remediation frequently have
persistent effects, especially on aquatic resources. This
legacy has resulted in a large and increasing economic
burden. A 2002 audit estimated the costs to government for
cleaning up and closing 17 abandoned mines in Canada’s
North at $555 million, with additional costs for long-term
management of impacts at some sites (Office of the Auditor
General of Canada 2002).
The Kivalliq region of Nunavut has a long history of
water quality concerns from resource development. The
North Rankin Inlet Nickel Mine, operational from 1957 to
1962, discharged effluent into ponds below sea level; this
leached into Hudson Bay and contaminated its shorelines
(Erickson 1995; WESA Inc. 2010). While hazardous tail-
ings were eventually removed by the federal government in
2011, the legacy of 50 years of contamination has
engrained itself in the minds of residents (Cater 2013).
Furthermore, the site of the mine waste and tailings was
identified as unusable for building purposes repurposed
into a baseball diamond (Cater 2013). With the Agnico
Eagle Meliadine Gold Mine development in progress north
of the community, concerns over water quality and fish
habitat are renewed (Arnold 2015). The Meliadine mine
again threatens an important freshwater ecosystem (the
Meliadine River Valley), which contains multiple lakes of
cultural (e.g. Iqalugaarjuup Nunanga Territorial Park) and
environmental significance.
Community development pressures
There is a long history of growth and expansion of northern
communities that has followed industrial and resource
development projects. Haley et al. (2011) note that 36.4%
of economic output from the three territories is from
mining and oil and gas development, which has dramati-
cally increased in the last decade. The growth and expan-
sion of recent development projects, such as the Meliadine
Gold Mine near Rankin Inlet and the Meadowbank gold
mine near Baker Lake, will increase the burden on
municipal water supply and services. Likewise, increased
municipal and industrial development will strain the lim-
ited infrastructure and services that exist in many northern
communities, which can result in a variety of contamina-
tion point-sources that impact aquatic systems (e.g.
Fig. 2b), including run-off and leaching from municipal
landfills and sewage containment areas, hydrocarbon and
chemical spills (e.g. waste oil, fuel, lubricants, de-icing
liquids), industrial activity, residential waste, stream
channel diversion (often accompanying road construction),
and increased sedimentation from gravel haul operations
(Medeiros et al. 2011).
Increased effluents, tailings, and emissions from
resource exploration and industrial development near
Arctic communities have renewed concerns over water and
food security. The cost of imported food from the south is
often prohibitive, and cultural practices continue to be
important for community well-being; thus, there is a con-
tinued reliance on traditionally harvested fish and marine
and land mammals. Likewise, untreated freshwater sources
are commonly used during hunting and fishing expeditions
for drinking, butchering processes, and meal preparation.
The risk of unexpected contamination can be affected by
the source’s proximity to features such as airports and the
ocean. For example, Marcil Lake in Arctic Bay, Nunavut,
faces considerable risk of saltwater intrusion due to its
642 A. S. Medeiros et al.
proximity to the ocean. Likewise, the Kugajuk River, water
source for the hamlet of Kugaaruk, lacks a freshwater–
saltwater barrier, leading to previous contamination of the
drinking water supply (Johnson 2013). The fragile nature
of Nunavut’s municipal water supply systems is illustrated
by boil-water advisories and large-scale water outages in
Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet, Igloolik, Whale Cove, Sanikiluaq,
and Coral Harbour since 2014 (GN 2015). The Guidelines
for Canadian Drinking Water Quality issued by Health
Canada identify acceptable contaminant levels as well as
suggestions regarding treatment for removal; however,
these guidelines are often exceeded in northern communi-
ties (Table 1). In addition, while Canadian guidelines
suggest that total coliforms and E. coli can be removed
with standard disinfection methods (e.g. applying chlorine,
chloramine, chlorine dioxide, or ultraviolet radiation;
Health Canada 2012a), other water quality parameters
require mechanical filtration that many communities do not
currently employ (Table 1). For example, turbidity, alu-
minium, and iron contaminants all require mechanical fil-
tration (e.g. direct filtration, inline filtration or slow sand
filtration; Health Canada 2012b). Furthermore, waste
disposal has long been an issue for isolated northern
regions. Garbage dumping in proximity to northern com-
munities and around aquatic systems is likely to increase
with population growth, thus increasing the likelihood of
contamination. These infrastructure and development
challenges highlight the critical need for Nunavut to
develop a rigorous drinking water quality monitoring and
reporting protocol.
Northern water security for the future
Northern communities face key vulnerabilities that chal-
lenge water security, including limited technical and
financial capacity, limited and ageing infrastructure,
growing populations, and a legacy of industrial contami-
nation. Environmental change places water quantity and
quality issues, already a challenge from settlement pres-
sures and resource development, at the forefront of concern
in a warming Arctic. The combined consequences of
increased evaporative stress on freshwater supply, and
diminishing water quality due to permafrost degradation,
Table 1 Assessment of Nunavut Community Water Treatment methods and analysis of parameters that exceeded Health Canada Guidelines
from 2010 to 2014 (adapted from Williams Engineering Canada Inc 2014: 236)
Community Parameters exceeding guidelines Treatment method
Arctic Bay Total coliforms Chlorination
Arviat E. coli, total coliforms Cartridge filter, chlorination
Baker Lake E. coli, total coliforms, turbidity Sodium hypochlorite
Cambridge Bay Turbidity, iron Sodium hypochlorite
Cape Dorset Total coliforms Liquid chlorine
Chesterfield Inlet E. coli, total coliforms, iron Sodium hypochlorite, cartridge filters
Clyde River Aluminium, iron, total coliforms Liquid chlorine
Coral Harbour E. coli, total coliforms, iron Sodium hypochlorite
Gjoa haven E. coli, turbidity Sodium hypochlorite, rapid sand filter
Grise Fiord Aluminium, iron, total coliforms Occasional basic chlorination of glacier and iceberg melt-water
Hall Beach Total coliforms Chlorine injection
Igloolik Total coliforms Calcium hypochlorite
Iqaluit Ultraviolet disinfection, sand filtration, chlorination
Kimmirut Total coliforms Chlorination
Kugaaruk Turbidity Sodium hypochlorite
Kugluktuk Turbidity Sodium hypochlorite, cartridge filters
Pangnirtung Total coliforms Chlorination, fluoridation
Pond Inlet Total coliforms Basic chlorination
Qikiqtarjuaq Total coliforms Calcium hypochlorite, cartridge filters
Rankin Inlet Total coliforms Gaseous chlorine
Repulse Bay Total coliforms Sodium hypochlorite
Resolute Bay Total coliforms Calcium hypochlorite
Sanikiluaq Chlorine, TDS, total coliforms Chlorination
Taloyoak Turbidity Sodium hypochlorite, cartridge filters
Whale Cove Total coliforms Sodium hypochlorite
Water security for northern peoples: review of threats to Arctic freshwater systems in Nunavut643
increased development, and legacy contamination cascades
across both social and scientific disciplines. Indigenous
peoples have long demonstrated a capacity to adapt to
changing conditions, e.g. altering subsistence harvest, tra-
vel, and relational networks (Gearheard et al. 2010).
However, cumulative and increasing pressures on fresh-
water resources challenge efforts towards improving
community sustainability.
While adaptation to the impacts of changing environ-
mental conditions on subsistence practices has been a focus
of recent research in the north (Ziervogel and Ericksen
2010; Wesche and Chan 2010), this topic requires further
investigation on the water security front. Research on
freshwater resources in northern regions tends to concen-
trate on the scientific determination of environmental
change impacts in a natural context; however, there is an
obvious need to utilize both scientific and Indigenous
knowledge of northern systems for adaptation and planning
for sustainable communities under a warming climate (e.g.
Fig. 1). Likewise, the link between food security and water
security is clear, yet access to sustainable and clean
freshwater resources has not received the attention it crit-
ically requires. Freshwater management policy and plan-
ning are currently limited in Nunavut, and future
development pressure and climate warming will only
increase the vulnerability of northern residents regarding
clean and accessible freshwater. While conclusions about
the sustainability of future water resources diverge some-
what due to climate model inaccuracies (Nilsson et al.
2013a), the development of adaptation and management
plans for freshwater resources based on best available
evidence are essential for any stable and healthy population
(Ford et al. 2010).
The concept of water security is defined at different
scales based on the discipline and is often approached from
a human-centred perspective (Cook and Baker 2012).
Ensuring water security for northern peoples into the future
requires careful assessment and planning to provide con-
tinued access for all to clean water at an affordable cost to
support healthy people and livelihoods. This must be done
in a sustainable manner, where current needs are met
without compromising the capacity for future generations
to meet their own needs. However, clean and abundant
water is also essential for elements of the ecosystem, which
provide services that humans rely on. The intertwined
nature of social-ecological systems suggests the impor-
tance of shifting our approach to water security to better
reflect the fundamental nature of ecosystems as a basis for
human health and well-being, in other words, an ecohealth
approach (Parkes et al. 2010; Bunch et al. 2011).
The water governance system in northern Canada is
under rapid evolution, with NWT and Yukon now acting to
implement their respective water management strategies.
In Nunavut, water management is a critical issue that lar-
gely remains to be addressed. Research to evaluate the
effectiveness of existing water strategies and their imple-
mentation would be very useful for transferring lessons
learned to Nunavut. Ultimately, ensuring water security for
northern peoples into the future requires careful assessment
and planning to provide accessible clean water at an
affordable cost in order to meet the basic needs of humans
without compromising ecosystem sustainability for future
generations. Adaptation to environmental change requires
hydrological and hydrochemical monitoring systems that
draw on both scientific and Indigenous knowledge (Nilsson
et al. 2013b). It also requires inclusive governance pro-
cesses that value effective community consultation and
position northerners as leaders.
Acknowledgements Funding for this study was provided by the
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Water security for northern peoples: review of threats to Arctic freshwater systems in Nunavut647
... Hydroclimate varies both spatially and temporally; this arises from strong seasonal controls during ice-free periods, and on permafrost thaw, snowmelt, and evapotranspiration, which can alter the distribution and availability of water (Bring et al., 2016). The cascading effects of climate warming are depreciating the naturally low storage capacities of Arctic watersheds, threatening the provisioning of drinking water resources in Arctic communities (Medeiros et al., 2017). ...
... At the local level, risks to drinking water are experienced through a multitude of socioeconomic factors. In the majority of communities in the eastern Canadian Arctic, freshwater undergoes basic primary treatment through chlorination before being transported and deposited into the water storage tanks of individual buildings (Medeiros et al., 2017). As such, boil water advisories, and reports of residents running out of water and waiting for water refills (for hours or days), are not uncommon (Daley et al., 2015). ...
... Cultural and personal preferences of Inuit also include drinking untreated water from its source (Daley et al., 2015), especially when traveling out on the land during camping and subsistence activities (Goldhar et al., 2013(Goldhar et al., , 2014. Thus, the concomitance of climate warming and socioeconomic factors emphasize that water security is an increasingly important component of community sustainability (Medeiros et al., 2017). ...
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Anthropogenic stressors to freshwater environments have perpetuated water quality and quantity challenges for communities across Arctic Canada, making drinking water resources a primary concern for northern peoples. To understand the ecological trajectory of lakes used as freshwater supply, we conducted a paleolimnological assessment on two supplemental sources in Igloolik, Nunavut, Arctic Canada. A stratigraphic examination of biological indicators (Insecta: Diptera: Chironomidae) allowed for paleotemperature reconstructions with decadal and centennial resolution over the past 2000 years. Between 200 and 1900 CE, the sub-fossil chironomid community was comprised of cold-water taxa, such as Abiskomyia, Micropsectra radialis-type, and Paracladius. Reconstructed temperatures were consistent with known climate anomalies during this period. A rapid shift in the composition of the chironomid assemblages to those with higher temperature optima ( Chironomus anthracinus-type, Dicrotendipes, and Tanytarsus lugens-type) in the late 20th century was observed in both systems. Our results demonstrate that these ecosystems are undergoing marked transformations to warmer, more nutrient-rich environments, and suggest that water sustainability pressures will likely continue in tandem with ongoing climate change. To contextualize the influence of recent warming and elucidate the status of freshwater resources over the longer term, paleolimnological methods can be usefully applied as components of vulnerability assessments.
... Air quality research carried out by ecologists indicates that the main heavy metal pollutants are industrial plants, including facilities that burn products consisting of anthracite and oil [73]. It has also been shown that these pollutants influence the formation of CO2 aerosols and subsequent acidification of soils and waters [68,72,73,99,100]. New single-family buildings being constructed are often not connected to the heating system, which in the future may lead to increased air pollution due to socalled "small emissions". ...
... Air quality research carried out by ecologists indicates that the main heavy metal pollutants are industrial plants, including facilities that burn products consisting of anthracite and oil [73]. It has also been shown that these pollutants influence the formation of CO 2 aerosols and subsequent acidification of soils and waters [68,72,73,99,100]. New single-family buildings being constructed are often not connected to the heating system, which in the future may lead to increased air pollution due to so-called "small emissions". ...
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The Russian city of Murmansk has about 300,000 inhabitants and is located inside the Arctic Circle in NE Scandinavia (Russia). It has one of the largest such concentrations of people in the Arctic. The city is a scientific, industrial, cultural, and transportation centre (an ice-free port in the so-called Northern Sea Route, connecting Europe with Asia). Currently, air pollution in the city is associated with outdated city heating technology, coal dust from the port and vehicular traffic, and so-called “small emissions”. The authors propose practical solutions based on known examples of Scandinavian cities with similar climatic conditions such as: the modernisation of heat energy acquisition; diversification of energy acquisition including renewable sources; thermal insulation of buildings; arrangement of urban greenery with dust-catching plants, and proposals for changing the habits within the population by promoting the use of public transport.
... As of today, there remain over 2000 sites identified as contaminated across the three Territories (Canada 2020a). Recently, gas development, long-range contaminant transport, oil sands development, and climate change (which has resulted in the increased frequency of forest fires, changes to hydrological regimes, and landscape changes due to permafrost thaw) are now increasing community concerns regarding safe water (Medeiros et al. 2017). In addition to chemical pollutants, biological pollutants can also affect the integrity of drinking water (Wright et al. 2018). ...
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Resource development and climate change are increasing concerns regarding safe water for Indigenous people in Canada. A research study was completed to characterize the consumption of water and beverages prepared with water and identify the perception of water consumption in Indigenous communities from the Northwest Territories and Yukon, Canada. As part of a larger research program, data for this study were available from a 24-hour recall dietary survey ( n = 162), a health messages survey ( n = 150), and an exposure factor survey ( n = 63). A focus group was conducted with Elders in an on-the-land camp setting. The consumption of water-based beverages in winter was 0.9 L/day on average, mainly consisting of tea and coffee. Of the 81% of respondents who reported consuming water-based beverages in the previous 24 hours of the survey, 33% drank more bottled water than tap water. About 2% of respondents consumed water from the land (during the winter season). Chlorine smell was the main limiting factor reported to the consumption of tap water. Results from the focus group indicated that Indigenous knowledge might impact both the perception and consumption of water. These findings aim to support public health efforts to enable people to make water their drink of choice.
... Lake shore erosion: flux of POC from Holocene lacustrine sediments Lake shore erosion: flux of POC from Pleistocene/Holocene terrestrial upland sediments Old POC from underlying Pleistocene sediments enters unfrozen CH 4 production zone due to talik expansion Flux of CH 4 from lake talik and lake sediments (arrow size proportional to flux) Production of CH 4 within lake talik using old C Production of CH 4 within lake sediments using old and young C C sequestration in drained lake basins (peat) C sequestration in lake sediments (POC, peat, gyttya) DOC fluxes from the active layer and gullies into lakes and basins DOC fluxes from lakes and basins DOC transformation in lakes Flux of CO 2 from upland surfaces and welldrained basins (arrow size proportional to flux) Lake talik Lake sediments Lake water Lakes are commonly relied upon as a source of drinking water for Indigenous populations and for industrial activities, as surface water in permafrost regions is often the only viable source of water [165][166][167][168] . Access to a reliable source for clean drinking water is essential for northern communities. ...
The formation, growth and drainage of lakes in Arctic and boreal lowland permafrost regions influence landscape and ecosystem processes. These lake and drained lake basin (L-DLB) systems occupy >20% of the circumpolar Northern Hemisphere permafrost region and ~50% of the area below 300 m above sea level. Climate change is causing drastic impacts to L-DLB systems, with implications for permafrost dynamics, ecosystem functioning, biogeochemical processes and human livelihoods in lowland permafrost regions. In this Review, we discuss how an increase in the number of lakes as a result of permafrost thaw and an intensifying hydrologic regime are not currently offsetting the land area gained through lake drainage, enhancing the dominance of drained lake basins (DLBs). The contemporary transition from lakes to DLBs decreases hydrologic storage, leads to permafrost aggradation, increases carbon sequestration and diversifies the shifting habitat mosaic in Arctic and boreal regions. However, further warming could inhibit permafrost aggradation in DLBs, disrupting the trajectory of important microtopographic controls on carbon fluxes and ecosystem processes in permafrost-region L-DLB systems. Further research is needed to understand the future dynamics of L-DLB systems to improve Earth system models, permafrost carbon feedback assessments, permafrost hydrology linkages, infrastructure development in permafrost regions and the well-being of northern socio-ecological systems.
... Recent efforts have been made to synthesize the definitions, metrics, and applications of water security (Cook & Bakker, 2012;Garrick & Hall, 2014;Zeitoun et al., 2016;Jepson et al., 2017b;Wutich et al., 2017;Gerlak et al., 2018;Hoekstra et al., 2018), with specific contributions to water and social-ecological system governance (Bakker & Morinville, 2013;Medeiros et al., 2016), household water security (Meehan et al., 2020;Venkataramanan et al., 2020), and human health and wellbeing (Rosinger & Young, 2020;Wutich et al., 2020;Stoler et al., 2021). Systematic knowledge syntheses concerning how water security is conceptualized and applied to rural livelihoods are, however, virtually non-existent. ...
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In the global South, rural and resource-based livelihoods increasingly face water-related risks. The conceptualization and application of the water security concept in relation to rural livelihoods has not been reviewed in this context. To fill this gap, a systematic scoping review of refereed journal articles (2000–2019) was conducted to examine how water security is defined, driven, and addressed for rural livelihoods in the global South. Publications (n = 99) featured diverse methodologies and geographical contexts, and recognized simultaneous drivers of water insecurity and solution strategies for water security. Several shortcomings were evident. First, only 30.3% of publications defined the concept, mostly using frames of ‘adequate’, ‘sufficient’, and ‘acceptable’ water-related risks. Few definitions recognized the role of water security interventions in increasing capabilities and prosperity. Second, technical and managerial responses to proximate drivers of water-related risk – namely climate-related dynamics, water re-allocation, extraction, and mismanagement – outnumbered efforts to identify and transform the underlying social, economic, and political inequities that create and sustain water insecurity. Last, studies focused heavily on agriculture, while labour, transhumance pastoralism, and aquaculture were underrepresented. A research agenda that increases the synergies between the wider water security and rural livelihoods scholarship is advanced to address these shortcomings. HIGHLIGHTS A systematic scoping review clarifies how water security is framed and addressed for rural livelihoods.; Water security focused on conditions of adequacy – not on advancing prosperity.; Diverse rural livelihoods were underrepresented.; Systemic processes that create and sustain water insecurity received less attention.; A research agenda to better understand and address water-related risks for rural livelihoods is provided.;
... Mirroring the broader water insecurity literature, research about Indigenous peoples has often focused on the material dimensions of household water insecurity including water access, quantity, quality and affordability (Goldhar et al., 2013;Medeiros et al., 2017;Wright et al., 2017). As Jepson et al. (2017) note, such framings, while important, fail to account for the influence of water-society relationships on water insecurity. ...
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Indigenous peoples experience water insecurity disproportionately. There are many parallels between the injustices experienced by racialized and marginalized populations and Indigenous peoples. However, the water insecurity experienced by Indigenous peoples is distinctly shaped by settler colonialism. This article draws on examples from Canada and the United States to illustrate how jurisdictional and regulatory injustices along with the broader political and economic asymmetries advanced by settler colonial States (re-)produce water insecurity for Indigenous peoples. We conclude by engaging with how Indigenous peoples are pushing back against these arrangements using State and non-State strategies by revitalizing Indigenous knowledge and governance systems.
... While aquatic monitoring programs that focus on benthic macroinvertebrate communities are standard for inclusion in the assessment of freshwater ecological integrity (Hering et al., 2006), policy and governance surrounding Arctic freshwater resources are fragmented and, in some cases, nonexistent (Medeiros et al., 2017). Heino et al. (2020) note the urgent need for monitoring Arctic freshwater ecosystems, especially with respect to the unknown and often unpredictable influence of environmental change, where the data produced by baseline studies are integrated into informed and realistic planning processes at both local and regional scales of governance. ...
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As increased growth and development put pressure on freshwater systems in Arctic environments, there is a need to maintain a meaningful and feasible framework for monitoring water quality. A useful tool for monitoring the ecological health of aquatic systems is by means of the analysis and inferences made from benthic invertebrates in a biomonitoring approach. Biomonitoring of rivers and streams within the Arctic has been under‐represented in research efforts. Here, we investigate an approach for monitoring biological impairment in Arctic streams from anthropogenic land use at two streams with different exposure to urban development in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Arctic Canada. Sites upstream of development, at midpoint locations, and at the mouth of each waterbody were sampled during 6 campaigns (2008, 2009, 2014, 2015, 2018, and 2019) to address spatial and temporal variability of the macroinvertebrate community. The influence of taxonomic resolution scaling was also examined in order to understand the sensitivity of macroinvertebrates as indicators in Arctic aquatic systems. We demonstrate that standard biological metrics were effective in indicating biological impairment downstream of sources of point‐source pollutants. A mixed‐design ANOVA for repeated measures also found strong interannual variability; however, we did not detect intra‐annual variation from seasonal factors. When examining metrics at the highest taxonomic resolution possible, the sensitivity of metrics increased. Likewise, when trait‐based metrics (α functional diversity) were applied to indicators identified at high taxonomic resolution, a significant difference was found between reference and impacted sites. Our results show that even though Arctic systems have lower diversity and constrained life‐history characteristics compared to temperate ecosystems, biomonitoring is not only possible, but also equally effective in detecting trends from anthropogenic activities. Thus, biomonitoring approaches in Arctic environments are likely a useful means for providing rapid and cost‐effective means of assessing future environmental impact. As increased growth and development put pressure on freshwater systems in Arctic communities, there is a need to maintain a meaningful and feasible framework for monitoring water quality. A useful tool for monitoring the ecological health of aquatic systems is by means of the analysis and inferences made from benthic invertebrates in a biomonitoring approach. Our results show that even though Arctic systems have lower diversity and constrained life‐history characteristics compared to temperate ecosystems, biomonitoring is not only possible, but also equally effective in detecting trends from anthropogenic activities.
... There have been evidences of more frequent and intense droughts as well (Dai, 2012). Warming also causes precipitation transformation to more-rain-less-snow pattern causing floods, besides accentuating snowmelt, and evaporative stress (Berghuijs et al., 2014;Medeiros et al., 2017;Masson-Delmotte et al., 2018). However, impacts of climate change varies region to region (Sharma and Goyal, 2020), therefore regional assessments are necessary for sustainable management of natural resources (Schewe et al., 2014). ...
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en To understand climate change impacts on Prince Edward Island (PEI), Canada, historical daily precipitation and temperature of the island was investigated between the periods: 1931–60 (1940s), 1961–90 (1970s), and 1991–2020 (2000s) in its eastern, central, and western parts. Observed climatic data were utilized, augmented by some validated modeled data of Pacific Climate Impact Consortium (PCIC) for missing years. Statistically significant warming of the island was found ranging from 1.14°C in the east to 0.75°C in the west from the 1970s to 2000s. The warming trend during the period was distributed throughout the year including winters. In the east, mean monthly temperature significantly increased in all the months except for January, March, and June. Significant increase in temperature was found solely during August (+0.80°C) in central, and for August (+0.64°C), September (+0.99°C), and October (+0.73°C) in western parts. Proportionate increase in annual minimum temperature was greater than the maximum, particularly in eastern (+1.57°C) and central (+0.75°C) parts and thus indicated moderated cold there. Over the same 30‐year period, annual precipitation increased 6 percent in the east but decreased 5 and 8 percent in the central and the western PEI, respectively. The changes in precipitation were not statistically significant, except snowfall reduction (−20%) in the west, which was a statistically significant change. Interannual precipitation variations during wet and dry years having 20 and 80 percent probabilities of exceedance, respectively, ranged 350–470 mm/year during 1991–2020. Rainfall intensities, measured by hourly data, increased from 1.15 to 2.24 mm/hr, on average in central and western parts, respectively, in 2004–17 compared to 1970s. Impacts of the rising temperatures, decreasing precipitation, and uneven and intense rainfalls patterns on water resources and rainfed agriculture need further investigations. Climate change adaptations be included in existing water policies to mitigate the impacts. 摘要 zh 为研究气候变化对加拿大爱德华王子岛 (PEI) 产生的影响, 本文调查了1931‐1961年 (用1940s代替该时段) 、1961‐1990年(用1970s代替该时段)、以及1991‐2020(用2020s代替该时段)年间该岛东部、中部和西部的历史日均降水量及温度。使用了气候观察数据, 该数据通过由太平洋气候影响联盟 (Pacific Climate Impact Consortium) 证实的建模数据加以扩大, 弥补了无数据的年份。发现1970s‐2000s期间该岛出现统计学显著的变暖情况, 其中东部升高1.14°C, 西部升高0.75°C。该时段的变暖趋势是全年存在的, 包括冬季。东部地区每月平均温度显著增加, 1月、3月和6月除外。中部地区仅8月出现了显著温度上升 (0.80 °C) , 西部地区8月、9月和10月出现了显著温度上升, 分别为0.64 °C、0.99 °C和0.73 °C。年度最低气温的成比例增长大于最高气温的增长, 尤其是在东部 (上升1.57 °C) 和中部 (上升0.75 °C) , 因此寒冷气温有所减缓。在相同的30年里, 东部的年度降水量增加了6%, 而中部和西部分别下降了5%和8%。西部的降雪量显著减少了20%, 除此之外降水量变化并不显著。1991‐2020年间, 潮湿和干燥年份的年际降水量差异有20%和80%的概率存在降水过多的情况, 分别为每年350mm和470mm。与1970s相比, 2004‐2017年间中部和西部每小时降雨强度的平均增加量分别为1.15mm和2.24mm。温度上升、降水量减少、以及不均衡和剧烈降水模式对水资源及旱作农业产生的影响还需要进一步调查。现有水政策应包含气候变化适应措施, 以缓解该影响。 Resumen es Para comprender los impactos del cambio climático en la Isla del Príncipe Eduardo (PEI), Canadá, se investigaron las precipitaciones históricas diarias y la temperatura de la isla entre los períodos: 1931‐1960 (década de 1940), 1961‐1990 (década de 1970) y 1991‐2020 (década de 2000). en sus partes oriental, central y occidental. Se utilizaron los datos climáticos observados, aumentados por algunos datos modelados validados del Pacific Climate Impact Consortium (PCIC) para los años faltantes. Se encontró un calentamiento estadísticamente significativo de la isla entre 1,14 C en el este y 0,75 C en el oeste desde la década de 1970 hasta la de 2000. La tendencia al calentamiento durante el período se distribuyó a lo largo del año, incluidos los inviernos. En el este, la temperatura media mensual aumentó significativamente en todos los meses excepto enero, marzo y junio. Se encontró un aumento significativo de la temperatura únicamente durante agosto (+0,80 °C) en el centro, y agosto (+0,64 C), septiembre (+0,99 C) y octubre (+0,73 C) en la parte occidental. El aumento proporcional de la temperatura mínima anual fue mayor que la máxima, particularmente en las partes este (+1,57 °C) y central (+0,75 °C) y, por lo tanto, indicó un frío moderado allí. Durante el mismo período de treinta años, la precipitación anual aumentó un 6% en el este, pero disminuyó un 5% y un 8% en el PEI central y occidental, respectivamente. Los cambios en la precipitación no fueron estadísticamente significativos, excepto la reducción de nevadas (‐20%) en el oeste, que fue un cambio estadísticamente significativo. Las variaciones interanuales de las precipitaciones durante los años húmedos y secos, con probabilidades de superación del 20% y 80%, respectivamente, oscilaron entre 350 y 470 mm / año durante 1991‐2020. Las intensidades de las precipitaciones, medidas por datos horarios, aumentaron de 1,15 a 2,24 mm / h, en promedio en las partes central y occidental, respectivamente, en 2004‐17 en comparación con la década de 1970. Los impactos del aumento de las temperaturas, la disminución de las precipitaciones y los patrones desiguales e intensos de lluvias en los recursos hídricos y la agricultura de secano necesitan más investigaciones. Las adaptaciones al cambio climático se incluirán en las políticas de agua existentes para mitigar los impactos.
... When these dynamics are combined with an ever-increasing pressure to produce more food, feed, and biomass, agricultural systems face significant declines in nonfood ecosystem services as human inputs are ratcheted up to increase the provision of a single service or to privatize and monetize the provision of other, nonfood services. For example, the Canadian Northwest Territories might soon be able to take advantage of climate change to open new areas to agricultural production, which will certainly change the ecosystem services produced in this region (Hannah et al., 2020), increasing food production, but also reducing biodiversity, releasing carbon dioxide, and exacerbating water security challenges already present in the North (Medeiros et al., 2017) and almost certainly affecting sense of place and access to culturally important services such as country food for Northerners. ...
Global social and economic changes, alongside climate change, are affecting the operating environment for agriculture, leading to efforts to increase production and yields, typically through the use of agrochemicals like pesticides and fertilizers, expanded irrigation, and changes in seed varieties. Intensification, alongside the expansion of agriculture into new areas, has increased harvest, but has also had numerous well-known impacts on the environment, ultimately resulting in a loss of resilience and lack of sustainability in agro-ecosystems. Combined with features of agricultural systems such as the differential movement of ecosystem services, and interactions among ecosystem services driven in part by management choices, such intensification has disrupted key feedbacks in agricultural systems. These changes have tended to perpetuate the management choices that have led to efficient, productive agriculture, often at the expense of nature and the provision of important nonfood ecosystem services. Here, we explore how agriculture functions as a complex adaptive system. We assess how recent changes have interacted with agro-ecosystem features to result in a loss of resilience, and suggest key research directions to help harmonize production and ecosystem function, drawing primarily on Canadian examples. Enhancing the resilience of agricultural landscapes is critical to the long-term sustainability of agriculture in a rapidly changing world.
The present study was conducted to evaluate the water security in Iran and its large watersheds over a period of 20 years at 5-year intervals (1996, 2001, 2006, 2011, and 2016). Eight important indicators influencing the water security including the renewable water resources per capita, water use intensity, water productivity, investing in water infrastructures, water quality, access to drinking water and pollution management, changes in the green coverage area, and changes in the large water bodies area of the country were used and weighed by the analytical network process (ANP) method in order to quantify the concept of water security. The average calculated values for water security were equal to 0.455, 0.442, 0.410, 0.345, 0.326, and 0.323 in the Urmia Lake, Caspian Sea, Persian Gulf and Oman Sea, Qaraqom, Central Plateau, and Eastern Border large watersheds, respectively over 20 years. The calculated values for water security during the studied years showed that although the slope of water security has changed in different time periods, but the water security declined between 1996 and 2016 across the six watersheds although there were some small discrepancies in this trend. These inconsistencies are far less significant than the overall reductions in water security across time and space. Considering that water security is one of the important components of national security and existence of water crises, sustainable management of water resources by political, social and economic requirements and creating a proper balance between water use and water resources seems necessary to prevent a possible future.
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Terrestrial hydrology is central to the Arctic system and its freshwater circulation. Water transport and water constituents vary, however, across a very diverse geography. In this paper, which is a component of the Arctic Freshwater Synthesis, we review the central freshwater processes in the terrestrial Arctic drainage and how they function and change across seven hydro-physiographical regions (Arctic tundra, boreal plains, shield, mountains, grasslands, glaciers/ice caps, and wetlands). We also highlight links between terrestrial hydrology and other components of the Arctic freshwater system. In terms of key processes, snow cover extent and duration is generally decreasing on a pan-Arctic scale, but snow depth is likely to increase in the Arctic tundra. Evapotranspiration will likely increase overall, but as it is coupled to shifts in landscape characteristics, regional changes are uncertain and may vary over time. Streamflow will generally increase with increasing precipitation, but high and low flows may decrease in some regions. Continued permafrost thaw will trigger hydrological change in multiple ways, particularly through increasing connectivity between groundwater and surface water and changing water storage in lakes and soils, which will influence exchange of moisture with the atmosphere. Other effects of hydrological change include increased risks to infrastructure and water resource planning, ecosystem shifts, and growing flows of water, nutrients, sediment and carbon to the ocean. Coordinated efforts in monitoring, modeling, and process studies at various scales are required to improve the understanding of change, in particular at the interfaces between hydrology, atmosphere, ecology, resources, and oceans.
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Recent residential, commercial, and industrial development in the catchments of several Arctic streams has heightened the need to assess these freshwater systems accurately. It was imperative to develop methods that would be both effective at judging ecological condition of tundra streams and suitable for use by local groups. An investigation of two streams influenced by urbanization in Iqaluit, Nunavut, was carried out between July and August each year in 2007 - 09. Simple summary metrics (e.g., Shannon Index) and multivariate analysis (DCA, RD A) both demonstrated biological impairment in the benthic community at site locations downstream of urbanized portions of a local stream. This impairment was characterized by a loss of diversity and a dramatic shift of the benthic community to one dominated by chironomids from the subfamily Orthocladiinae. Elevated levels of total nitrogen (TN) and total phosphorus (TP) and several metals (Zn, Sr, Rb, Al, Co, Fe) were also found to be significantly related to benthic assemblages within these disturbed areas. This investigation also addressed taxonomic sufficiency, indicating that while family-level taxonomic identifications were sensitive enough to differentiate between pristine and impacted stream sites, a more precise taxonomic identification of the dominant benthos taxa (Insecta: Diptera: Chironomidae) to sub-family/tribe level identified a significant shift towards pollution-tolerant taxa. This higher taxonomic resolution will allow for the adaptation of protocols and the use of simple summary metrics to be effective for a community-based biomonitoring program in Arctic tundra streams.
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The resources component of the Arctic Freshwater Synthesis focuses on the potential impact of future climate and change on water resources in the Arctic and how Arctic infrastructure and exploration and production of natural resources are affected. Freshwater availability may increase in the Arctic in the future in response to an increase in middle- and high-latitude annual precipitation. Changes in type of precipitation, its seasonal distribution, timing, and rate of snowmelt represent a challenge to municipalities and transportation networks subjected to flooding and droughts and to current industries and future industrial development. A reliable well-distributed water source is essential for all infrastructures, industrial development, and other sectorial uses in the Arctic. Fluctuations in water supply and seasonal precipitation and temperature may represent not only opportunities but also threats to water quantity and quality for Arctic communities and industrial use. The impact of future climate change is varying depending on the geographical area and the current state of infrastructure and industrial development. This paper provides a summary of our current knowledge related to the system function and key physical processes affecting northern water resources, industry, and other sectorial infrastructure.
Technical Report
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The Arctic Ocean is a fundamental node in the global hydrological cycle and the ocean's thermohaline circulation. We here assess the system's key functions and processes: 1) the delivery of fresh and low salinity waters to the Arctic Ocean by river inflow, net precipitation, distillation during the freeze/thaw cycle and Pacific Ocean inflows; 2) the disposition (e.g. sources, pathways and storage) of freshwater components within the Arctic Ocean; and 3) the release and export of freshwater components into the bordering convective domains of the North Atlantic. We then examine physical, chemical or biological processes which are influenced or constrained by the local quantities and geochemical qualities of fresh water; these include: stratification and vertical mixing, ocean heat flux, nutrient supply, primary production, ocean acidification and biogeochemical cycling. Internal to the Arctic the joint effects of sea ice decline and hydrological cycle intensification have strengthened coupling between the ocean and the atmosphere (e.g. wind and ice-drift stresses, solar radiation, heat and moisture exchange), the bordering drainage basins (e.g. river discharge, sediment transport, erosion) and terrestrial ecosystems (e.g. Arctic greening, dissolved and particulate carbon loading, altered phenology of biotic components). External to the Arctic freshwater export acts as both a constraint to and a necessary ingredient for deep convection in the bordering subarctic gyres and thus affects the global thermohaline circulation. Geochemical fingerprints attained within the Arctic Ocean are likewise exported into the neighboring subarctic systems and beyond. Finally, we discuss observed and modelled functions and changes in this system on seasonal, annual and decadal time scales, and discuss mechanisms that link the marine system to atmospheric, terrestrial and cryospheric systems.
Arctic regions face a unique vulnerability to shifts in seasonality, which influences the summer recharge potential of freshwater reservoirs caused by decreased precipitation and increased evaporative stress. This pressure puts small remote northern communities at risk due to limited existing freshwater supply. The lack of baseline knowledge of existing supply, demand, or reservoir recharge potential increases this risk. We therefore address this knowledge gap through a water resource assessment of municipal supply over a 20 year planning horizon in two communities in Arctic Canada using a novel heuristic model and existing data sources. We generated climate and demand scenarios to identify the mechanisms of drawdown, as well as examine the influences on replenishment. We found a pronounced vulnerability to reduced winter precipitation and/or increased ice-thickness of reservoirs. Our heuristic supply forecasts indicate an immediate need for freshwater management strategies for northern communities in Canada.
Numerous international scientific assessments and related articles have, during the last decade, described the observed and potential impacts of climate change as well as other related environmental stressors on Arctic ecosystems. There is increasing recognition that observed and projected changes in freshwater sources, fluxes, and storage will have profound implications for the physical, biogeochemical, biological and ecological processes and properties of Arctic terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems. However, a significant level of uncertainty remains in relation to forecasting the impacts of an intensified hydrological regime and related cryospheric change on ecosystem structure and function. As the terrestrial and freshwater ecology component of the Arctic Freshwater Synthesis we review these uncertainties and recommend enhanced coordinated circumpolar research and monitoring efforts to improve quantification and prediction of how an altered hydrological regime influences local, regional and circumpolar-level responses in terrestrial and freshwater systems. Specifically, we evaluate i) changes in ecosystem productivity; ii) alterations in ecosystem-level biogeochemical cycling and chemical transport; iii) altered landscapes, successional trajectories and creation of new habitats; iv) altered seasonality and phenological mismatches; and, v) gains or losses of species and associated trophic interactions. We emphasize the need for developing a process-based understanding of inter-ecosystem interactions, along with improved predictive models. We recommend enhanced use of the catchment-scale as an integrated unit of study, thereby more explicitly considering the physical, chemical and ecological processes and fluxes across a full freshwater continuum in a geographic region and spatial range of hydro-ecological units (e.g., stream-pond-lake-river-near shore marine environments).
Atmospheric humidity, clouds, precipitation, and evapotranspiration are essential components of the Arctic climate system. During recent decades, specific humidity and precipitation have generally increased in the Arctic, but changes in evapotranspiration are poorly known. Trends in clouds vary depending on the region and season. Climate model experiments suggest that increases in precipitation are related to global warming. In turn, feedbacks associated with the increase in atmospheric moisture and decrease in sea ice and snow cover have contributed to the Arctic amplification of global warming. Climate models have captured the overall wetting trend but have limited success in reproducing regional details. For the rest of the 21st century, climate models project strong warming and increasing precipitation, but different models yield different results for changes in cloud cover. The model differences are largest in months of minimum sea ice cover. Evapotranspiration is projected to increase in winter but in summer to decrease over the oceans and increase over land. Increasing net precipitation increases river discharge to the Arctic Ocean. Over sea ice in summer, projected increase in rain and decrease in snowfall decrease the surface albedo and, hence, further amplify snow/ice surface melt. With reducing sea ice, wind forcing on the Arctic Ocean increases with impacts on ocean currents and freshwater transport out of the Arctic. Improvements in observations, process understanding, and modeling capabilities are needed to better quantify the atmospheric role in the Arctic water cycle and its changes.
Water is common to many environmental changes that are currently observed in the Arctic. To manage environmental change, and related water security challenges that are rising in the Arctic, adequate water information and monitoring is critical. Although water information systems have been deteriorating in the Arctic, there are still opportunities to combine existing data to inform policy decisions on how to manage water security. Furthermore, implementing a set of water security indicators can help identify areas of concern within the region. However, accessible climate change information is not always relevant for the scales of policymaking. In addition, improved representation of water on land in climate models is needed to better inform adaptation.
In response to a joint request from the World Climate Research Program's Climate and Cryosphere Project, the International Arctic Science Committee, and the Arctic Council's Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program, an updated scientific assessment has been conducted of the Arctic Freshwater System (AFS), entitled the Arctic Freshwater Synthesis (AFSΣ). The major reason for joint request was an increasing concern that changes to the AFS have produced, and could produce even greater, changes to bio-geophysical and socio-economic systems of special importance to northern residents and also produce extra-Arctic climatic effects that will have global consequences. Hence, the key objective of the AFSΣ was to produce an updated, comprehensive and integrated review of the structure and function of the entire AFS. The AFSΣ was organized around six key thematic areas: Atmosphere, Oceans, Terrestrial Hydrology, Terrestrial Ecology, Resources and Modeling, the review of each co-authored by an international group of scientists and published as separate manuscripts in this special issue of Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences. This AFSΣ –Introduction reviews the motivations for, and foci of, previous studies of the AFS, discusses criteria used to define the domain of the AFS, and details key characteristics of the definition adopted for the AFSΣ.