Water shortages on the way, Schindler cautions

David Schindler is bringing to the Okanagan a warning about western Canada's freshwater supply in the 21st century.

"Natural drought, climate warming, damage to natural drainage patterns and human demands for water will combine to cause severe water shortages in the prairies and southern British Columbia in the years ahead," says Schindler, Professor of Ecology at the University of Alberta, and widely recognized as one of the world's foremost experts on freshwater ecology.

Schindler will give a public lecture entitled 'Western Canada’s Freshwater Supply in the 21st Century,' at Kelowna's Rotary Centre for the Arts on March 22, as part of UBC Okanagan's Distinguished Speaker Series.

"Canada’s western prairie provinces, a large semi-arid area in the rain shadow of the Rocky Mountains, are at particular risk, as are southern parts of the interior of British Columbia," he says. "Average annual precipitation in the 20th century generally averaged 300 to 500 mm, and these areas have rapidly growing human demand for freshwater."

On the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains, runoff from glaciers and snowpacks has been a vital supplement to maintain river flows, instream flow needs, and human development, he says.

"Recent climate warming has caused glaciers and snowpacks to dwindle," Schindler notes. "As a result, river flows in summer have already decreased by 30 to 85 per cent, lake levels have declined, and wetlands have disappeared."

Schindler holds Canada’s highest scientific honor, the NSERC Gerhard Herzberg Gold Medal for Science and Engineering. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the Royal Society of London (UK), the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences, and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. Schindler has also received 10 honorary degrees from Canadian and U.S. universities.

Tickets are going quickly for the March 22 public lecture. Tickets are free, but must be ordered from the Rotary Centre's box office at 250.717.5304. For more information, visit the Distinguished Speaker Series website at www.ubc.ca/okanagan/speakers.

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