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Using the Arctic water resources vulnerability index in assessing and responding to environmental change in Alaskan communities

Williams, Paula, Kliskey, Andrew, McCarthy, Molly, Lammers, Richard, Alessa, Lilian, Abatzoglou, John
Climate risk management 2019 v.23 pp. 19-31
climate, foodshed, landscapes, mountains, risk management, rivers, socioeconomics, water supply, watersheds, Alaska, Arctic region
Adaptation to environmental change has become a necessity and a norm for many Arctic communities. We examine whether the adaptive capacity varies in different communities in Alaska with contrasting ecologies and socio-economic systems using the Arctic Water Resources Vulnerability Index (AWRVI). We applied the index to six communities in three distinct regions of Alaska with respect to water resources: Nuiqsut in Northern Alaska, Cooper Landing, Sterling, Soldotna and Kenai in the Kenai River watershed of Southcentral Alaska and Juneau in Southeast Alaska. We modified the AWRVI tool to accommodate the breadth of physical and social conditions in these communities. Using the AWRVI, we measured the adaptive capacity of the communities, which reflect greater vulnerability in Nuiqsut in Northern Alaska due to limitations in water supply and greater surrounding development that could pollute water in their food-shed. The overall adaptive capacities of the two communities that are more mountainous, Cooper Landing and Juneau are similar, as are Sterling, Soldotna and Kenai’s, which are in flatter terrain along the Kenai River. However, the physical and social sub-indices of the communities in the Kenai River watershed and Juneau differ. We discuss actions each community could take to improve their respective capacity to respond to anticipated change.