IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability Impacts on resource use and traditional economies/livelihoods

Given the large hydrological changes expected for Arctic rivers, particularly regarding the magnitude of the spring freshet, climate-induced changes must be factored into the design, maintenance and safety of existing and future development structures (e.g., oil and gas drilling platforms, pipelines, mine tailings ponds, dams and impoundments for hydroelectric production) (World Commission on Dams, 2000; Prowse et al., 2004; Instanes et al., 2005).

Freshwater sources are critical to human health, especially for many northern communities that rely on surface and/or groundwater, often untreated, for drinking water and domestic use (United States Environmental Protection Agency, 1997; Martin et al., 2005). Direct use of untreated water from lakes, rivers and large pieces of multi-year sea ice is considered to be a traditional practice, despite the fact that it poses a risk to human health via the transmission of water-borne diseases (e.g., Martin et al., 2005). Such risks may increase with changes in migration and northward movement of species and their related diseases. Changes in hydrology may also decrease the availability and quality of drinking water, particularly for coastal communities affected by rising sea levels where sea-water contamination could affect groundwater reserves (Warren et al., 2005).

Northern freshwater ecosystems provide many services to Arctic peoples, particularly in the form of harvestable biota used to support both subsistence and commercial economies (Reist et al., 2006b). Shifts in ecosystem structure and function will result in substantial changes in the abundance, replenishment, availability and accessibility of such resources which, in turn, will alter local resource use and traditional and subsistence lifestyles (Nuttall et al., 2005; Reist et al., 2006b). It is unlikely that such changes related to natural freshwater systems would be offset by increased opportunity for freshwater aquaculture resulting from a warming climate. Thus, conservation of Arctic aquatic biodiversity, maintenance of traditional and subsistence lifestyles, and continued viability and sustainable use of Arctic freshwater resources will present significant challenges for Arctic peoples, resource managers and policy-makers (Wrona et al., 2005; Reist et al., 2006b).