Assessing the Resilience of Ontario’s Low Water Response Plan under a Changed Climate Scenario: An Ontario Case Study
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Water is essential to sustaining aquatic environments and is also a resource upon which many human-sectors depend. During times of reduced supply, competition or conflict may arise regarding its distribution due to its importance to local economies and its life giving benefits. The Ontario Low Water Response (OLWR) Plan is designed to deal with how water might be allocated under situations of reduced supply. When forced with data from the Coupled Global Climate Model 1 (CGCM1), the Guelph All Weather Storm Event Runoff (GAWSER) hydrologic model projects scenarios of reduced flows for the Grand River watershed, an area within the Province of Ontario. A level III declaration, which marks the highest stage of water emergency has never before been declared in the Province of Ontario, meaning there is uncertainty regarding how OLWR might operate. Using one scenario of climate change, this study explores the resiliency of the OLWR mechanism to operate under the demands of a changing climate and a growing population through interviews. Results show that the mechanism is not resilient enough to operate under conditions of reduced flow due to ambiguity in the mechanism and the tendency for humans to trump environmental uses of water, leading to detrimental effects on the fishery. Recommendations from this study suggest that ambiguities in the mechanism be revisited and clarified with a shift towards a proactive approach in order for environmental integrity to be upheld under scenarios of reduced flow.