Arctic change raises the risk of floods, droughts, and other extreme weather, as well as rising sea levels. This disrupts access to clean water and sanitation by damaging infrastructure and causing saltwater intrusions into drinking water supplies, leading to water insecurity. In 2021 and 2022, residents of Iqaluit became water insecure after an underground fuel tank leached hydrocarbons into the town’s fresh water source.
Climate change affects people’s rights to clean water and sanitation by exacerbating floods and droughts, changes in precipitation, and through temperature extremes that result in water scarcity, contamination of drinking water, and the spread of disease (United Nations). Arctic change will worsen these impacts. Rising global sea levels and extreme weather resulting from a warming Arctic will disrupt access to clean water and sanitation by damaging infrastructure and causing saltwater intrusions into drinking water supplies. 79 percent of Kiribati’s population is currently facing severe water shortages due to the rising sea level, saltwater intrusion and ongoing drought (ReliefWeb, 2022). Due largely to losses in agricultural output and related industries, it is estimated that drought costs US$6-8 billion every year globally (Lese et al., 2021).
Water insecurity is the reality of many Indigenous communities across the Arctic. Historically drinking water was collected from ice melt, lakes or brooks, but now access to clean water is threatened by contamination, climate change-induced decreases in water availability, and lack of transport ability and harvesting machinery (Lawson, 2019). For several months during 2021 and 2022, Iqaluit residents in Nunavut suffered a water crisis in which 8000 community members lacked access to potable water because of infrastructure challenges and inadequate sanitation (The Arctic Institute, 2022).
The following gauges show up-to-date data regarding key indicators in the Arctic. These indicators clearly point to the crisis at hand.