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TitleAn Impending Water Crisis in Canada's Western Prairie Provinces
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsSchindler, D. W., & Donahue W.
Place PublishedProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, May 9, 2006
Publication Languageen
KeywordsCanada, freshwater, prairie provinces, quality, quantity, water crisis

Canada is usually considered to be a country with abundant freshwater, but in its western prairie provinces (WPP), an area 1/5 the size of Europe, freshwater is scarce. European settlement of the WPP did not begin until the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Fortuitously, the period since European settlement appears to have been the wettest century of the past two millennia. The frequent, long periods of drought that characterized earlier centuries of the past two millennia were largely absent in the 20th century. Here, we show that climate warming and human modifications to catchments have already significantly reduced the flows of major rivers of the WPP during the summer months, when human demand and in-stream flow needs are greatest. We predict that in the near future climate warming, via its effects on glaciers, snowpacks, and evaporation, will combine with cyclic drought and rapidly increasing human activity in the WPP to cause a crisis in water quantity and quality with far-reaching implications.


Part of a special series of inaugural articles by members of the National Academy of Sciences elected on April 30, 2002.



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