Photo: A small island in The Bahamas, one of the small island developing states.

Is there mounting water stress on small islands?

The project – SFU researchers in the Department of Earth Sciences carried out an assessment for UNESCO on the groundwater resources on 43 small island developing states distributed worldwide. These researchers developed “groundwater profiles” for each state and populated a publicly accessible groundwater information database that is maintained by the International Groundwater Resources Assessment Centre (IGRAC). In addition, they extended the study to examine the potential impacts of climate change on the water resources of each island.

The discovery – Forty-four percent of these islands are currently in a state of water stress. Future climate change projections suggest that 72% of these islands will experience a reduction in the amount of rainfall that contributes to the replenishment of groundwater resources.

Its significance – This represents a significant reduction in freshwater availability for the inhabitants of these islands. Unfortunately, many of these islands lack legislation to protect groundwater resources, which further increases their vulnerability. Identifying small island developing states that are particularly vulnerable and where freshwater supply may be threatened will inform priorities for further studies and data collection to support these islands in managing their water resources and preparing for future stresses.

Read the paper“Groundwater vulnerability on small islands” by Holding, S.; Allen, D. M.; Foster, S.; Hsieh, A.; Larocque, I.; Klassen, J.; van Pelt, S. C. Nature Climate Change 6(12):1100-1103 (2016). DOI: 10.1038/NCLIMATE3128

Link to IGRAC data portal.

Website article compiled by Jacqueline Watson with Theresa Kitos