Ensuring water security in the High Arctic: understanding the impacts of changing permafrost and hydrology on water quality and aquatic ecosystems.
Recent research and observed changes to community drinking water supplies in Inuit Nunangat highlight that climate and permafrost change can have important consequences for drinking water as well as for aquatic ecosystem function and health. This project proposes an integrated study of the sensitivities of water availability and quality, and aquatic ecosystems to changing climate, permafrost and hydrological processes in lakes and rivers in the community of Resolute Bay (Qausuittuq), and the High Arctic of northern Nunavut. A holistic understanding of the impacts of changing permafrost and climate on water resources is critically needed to support water security and aquatic ecosystem management decision making by northerners.
The proposed research will build on long term studies of landlocked char in the vicinity of Resolute Bay and 15 years of water research at the Cape Bounty Arctic Watershed Observatory (CBAWO), and develop co-designed water and permafrost research in Resolute Bay to investigate the community’s water resource concerns, and water resource and ecosystem sensitivities associated with climate and permafrost change in the area. Through this partnership the project aims to develop baseline water and permafrost data and the capacity to undertake local research for the Resolute vicinity to support decision-making. The project will also build on the leading edge research at CBAWO to further elucidate the role of permafrost change in structuring hydrological pathways and altering biogeochemical processes, water quality, the fate and transport of mercury and other contaminants, and the ecological impacts of these changes. The project will extend and leverage the knowledge gained from work at CBAWO to engage in research needs at Resolute, as appropriate, based on the community identified research priorities and partnership.
The proposed research will result in co-learning, expertise sharing and mutual capacity building to combine traditional and scientific knowledge to address community relevant water management issues in Resolute. Additionally, the proposed research will: develop water quantity and quality metrics to inform community water resource development and management; improve the understanding of risks to ecosystem change and contamination of fish; and inform the development of policy and infrastructure to ensure secure water in Inuit Nunangat.