, Volume 1, Supplement 2, pp SU144–SU154 | Cite as

Health Consequences of Drought on the Canadian Prairies

  • Karen E. Smoyer-Tomic
  • Justine D.A. Klaver
  • Colin L. SoskolneEmail author
  • Donald W. Spady
Original Contribution


Population pressures and expanding agricultural and industrial development, with their resulting environmental degradation and demand for water, are likely to increase drought vulnerability on the Canadian Prairies. Coupled with increases in drought expected under climate change, the health and well-being of prairie populations may be compromised. However, little is known about the health effects of drought in this region or of possible adaptation strategies. This article assesses the available information on the health effects associated with drought and uses this information to develop an ecosystem health framework for outlining how drought may affect the prairie ecosystem and the health and well-being of Canadian Prairie populations. The article identifies multisector mitigation and adaptation strategies for reducing the harmful effects of drought on the prairie ecosystem and its populations. The literature review revealed that drought is associated with crop failure, increased atmospheric dust, and intensifying forest fire frequency, with health effects ranging from respiratory illnesses from inhaling dust or smoke, to mental health concerns arising from economic stress, particularly among farmers. Future research is needed on: the health effects associated with drought more specific to the Prairie region; the mental well-being of farmers and agricultural communities; the health effects from exposure to forest fire haze; and the health effects of reduced water supply and quality. Reducing drought vulnerability requires multisectoral collaboration, starting at the community level, to identify more sustainable water use, diverse health risks of drought, and ways of adapting to drought conditions.


prairie ecosystem human health drought Canada 



Funding for this research was provided by Natural Resources Canada Climate Change Action Fund (CCAF), and Prairie Adaptation Research Cooperative (PARC).


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Copyright information

© EcoHealth Journal Consortium 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karen E. Smoyer-Tomic
    • 1
  • Justine D.A. Klaver
    • 2
  • Colin L. Soskolne
    • 2
    Email author
  • Donald W. Spady
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Earth and Atmospheric SciencesUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Department of Public Health SciencesUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  3. 3.Department of PediatricsUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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