Water Resources Warnings for Canada from Cape Town

Writing in The Conversation, CH and Global Water Futures Director Dist. Prof. John Pomeroy has discussed the risk of extreme impacts related to water resources – in the form of drought, floods, adverse water quality and wildfires – in Canada.This post offers a synopsis of the article, which is available in full here.

In recent years, rationing has been implemented as a temporary solution to water shortages in several major cities and conurbations across the country. Such measures have yet to attain the extreme constraints currently being experienced in Cape Town, South Africa, but this may only be a matter of time. Where shifting meteorological patterns driven by anthropogenic climate-change diminish snow and rain, shortages are likely to become more intense and frequent, and will translate into increased wildfire risk, poor water-quality, and major impacts on agricultural and ecological systems.

At the other end of the scale, widespread settlement and development along major rivers, together with increasing occurrences of intense or extended rainstorms, has increased the potential for damaging flood events.

In Canada, disruption to the key contributions made by seasonal snowpack and glaciers is a particular cause for concern.

With many hitherto “unusual” weather events increasing in frequency as atmospheric and oceanic warming continues and meteorological systems respond, methods previously applied to gauge the risks of drought and flood are rapidly becoming obsolete.

In the light of such challenges, improvements in water security in Canada could be achieved by:

  1. Improving integration and coordination of water governance, planning and services, by developing national-scale capabilities to forecast floods, droughts, water quality and water supply.
  2. Working to reduce flood damage through more active and integrated river basin water management, calculating future flood risk and restricting development in future flood zones.
  3. Reassessment of infrastructure, and capabilities to manage and store water, in expectation of droughts longer and more severe than any previously experienced.
  4. Managing the cumulative effects of development within watersheds, thereby reducing the contamination of lakes and rivers, so that the water is safe to drink and sustains aquatic ecosystems.

This in turn will depend on moving away from the mosaic of local, regional, provincial and federal authorities which currently manages water governance, and establishing more coordinated, inclusive and effective services within a national water security strategy. The Global Water Futures program seeks to drive progress towards these goals, both nationally and internationally.

Canada Not Immune to Water Shortages

In the wake of a water crisis in Cape Town, Dist. Prof. John Pomeroy talked to CBC News about the rising risk of water shortages in Western Canada. In a country known for its abundance of fresh water, Canadian scientists warn that some communities could face their own water crisis in the not-so-distant future.

Read the CBC article here.

For a more in-depth look at the water risks Canada is facing, read John Pomeroy’s article in the Conversation.


Researchers Use More Precise Models to Better Predict the Water Future

Western and Northern Canada has experienced some of the highest rates of warming anywhere in the world. This warming has affected various aspects of the environment, from increased rainfall in the winter months to changes in the magnitude and timing of streamflow across the region.

As the Changing Cold Regions Network comes to an end in March 2018, researchers have improved models at both small and large scales to better predict what the future may hold under more changing climatic and environmental conditions. These models have been used to evaluate changes in the Mackenzie and Saskatchewan River basins and included work from 40 scientists from eight universities who worked with four federal agencies.

More information can be read in a National Post article here.

A short documentary film on the research conducted during the Changing Cold Regions Network can be viewed here.