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Climate Change Impacts on the Water Resources of American Indians and Alaska Natives in the U.S.

Aug 30, 2013


This paper provides an overview of climate change impacts on tribal water resources and the subsequent cascading effects on the livelihoods and cultures of American Indians and Alaska Natives living on tribal lands in the U.S. A hazards and vulnerability framework for understanding these impacts is first presented followed by context on the framework components, including climate, hydrologic, and ecosystem changes (i.e. hazards) and tribe-specific vulnerability factors (socioeconomic, political, infrastructural, environmental, spiritual and cultural), which when combined with hazards lead to impacts. Next regional summaries of impacts around the U.S. are discussed. Although each tribal community experiences unique sets of impacts because of their individual history, culture, and geographic setting, many of the observed impacts are common among different groups and can be categorized as impacts on—1) water supply and management (including water sources and infrastructure), 2) aquatic species important for culture and subsistence, 3) ranching and agriculture particularly from climate extremes (e.g., droughts, floods), 4) tribal sovereignty and rights associated with water resources, fishing, hunting, and gathering, and 5) soil quality (e.g., from coastal and riverine erosion prompting tribal relocation or from drought-related land degradation). The paper finishes by highlighting potentially relevant research questions based on the five impact categories.

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Karen Cozzetto, Karletta Chief, Kyle Dittmer, Michael Brubaker, Robert Gough, Kalani Souza, Frank Ettawageshik, Susan Wotkyns, Sarah Opitz-Stapleton, Sebre Duren, and Pratiksha Chavan


Cozzetto K., K. Chief, K. Dittmer, M. Brubaker, R. Gough, K. Souza, F. Ettawageshik, S. Wotkyns, S. Opitz-Stapleton, S. Duren, and P. Chavan. 2013. Impacts of climate changes on the water resources of American Indians and Alaska Natives in the U.S. Climatic Change 120:569-584. Online at



Report No.


Media Type

Journal Article