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Does climate change represent a challenge for polar Communities by Limiting their access to Drinking water? – COLDwater

White Paper: Addressing the challenges of global warming for polar freshwater resources

Rapid transformations in the polar regions due to global warming are leading to temperatures far above the global average, severely impacting ecosystems, especially freshwater systems. Understanding these changes is crucial as they threaten vital ecosystem services essential for human and environmental well-being and key to One-Health approaches. Shifting precipitation patterns, ice melt, and permafrost thaw alter freshwater availability, posing challenges to local communities and increasing their vulnerability. Climate warming also deteriorates water quality through the release of pollutants and harmful microorganisms, endangering both human and natural health. Arctic communities face additional adaptation economic challenges. Urgent action through evidence-based practices, scientific research, policy-making, and local involvement is necessary to protect freshwater resources for a sustainable future.

Whitin this context, the COLDwater initiative crystallised into a white paper elaborated by a team of 20 experts from 14 European institutions who convened for a 3-day workshop in November 2023 to discuss the challenges confronting polar freshwater resources.

International collaboration is paramount in understanding freshwater dynamics in the Arctic and Antarctic. Initiatives focusing on transboundary water resources underscore the importance of collaboration across institutions and nations to collectively advance polar ecosystem knowledge. Such collaboration not only benefits polar regions but also aligns with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Therefore, funding mechanisms should prioritize bridging the gap between knowledge and action and supporting international cooperation in research agendas.

The proposed scientific and funding roadmap must be promptly implemented to maximize benefits within a 10-year timeframe, aligning with the next International Polar Year (2032-33). Leveraging existing transnational initiatives and governance frameworks, including the Antarctic governance framework, will guide future research towards sustainable management of freshwater resources. A comprehensive approach integrating pole-to-pole collaboration, strategic funding and adherence to governance frameworks is crucial to ensuring that collective efforts contribute to the well-being of polar communities and enhance global understanding of climate change implications.





David Velázquez

Maria Cristina Casero

Samuel Cirés

Universidad Autonoma de Madrid (UAM), Dept. of Biology. Spain


Arja Rautio

University of Oulu, Thule

Institute and Faculty of Medicine.