Climate change is a tremendous burden of the millennium, and it represents a threat to almost all components of the ecosystem, including the water sector. 

Widespread damage from disasters, depletion of water sources due to declining precipitation and rising population, and alterations in drinking water quality and administration are challenges for water supply fueled by changing climatic conditions.

By 2040, approximately 1 in 4 children will prevail in regions with extremely high water stress. 

The 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change organized in Paris in December 2015 witnessed various governments’ pledges to keep temperature increases to no more than two degrees Celsius compared to preindustrial levels of 1.5°C. 

Even if this is accomplished, considerable changes are expected to emerge, presenting more significant risks to populations and ecosystems.

Even though we might limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C, extreme weather events are likely. Different rainfall patterns will affect local hydrology and groundwater.

Increasingly unexpected weather occurrences are predicted, and these, along with random migration patterns, are likely to contribute to a rise in the probability of flash flooding, as well as high vulnerability to residents in risk-prone locations.

Here, you will discover a list of ten climate change issues in the water sector elaborated in more detail.

Table of Contents

1. Climate change concerning water-borne disease

Unsafe drinking water
Image source – USAID on Flickr

Climate change-related disasters and water-borne diseases are becoming progressively well-documented in various studies by environmentalists. 

Increased rates of diarrheal illness have been related to rising global temperatures. As per the World Health Organization, climate change will result in 48,000 diarrheal deaths by 2030.

In a thorough examination of the association between floods and wellness, experts discovered that communities with impure water and adequate sanitation facilities are substantially more prone to infectious disease epidemics. 

Infectious illness epidemics evolve when floods cause significant population evacuation, and there is concrete evidence of increased water-borne disease after floods.

2. Surface water and climate change

Alteration in surface water resources
Alteration in surface water resources | Image Credit – SMD Fluid Controls

Forecasting future surface water convenience is even more complicated when supplies are provided in proportion by glacierized lakes. 

The growing earth’s temperature is already causing higher snowmelt from ice caps, which will affect the periodicity and rhythm of outflows in the long term. 

And, when particular glaciers reach a critical level, ice melting will decrease. Other precipitation drivers, such as rainfall, snowmelt, and freshwater, would likely take precedence, altering the pattern and amplitude of flow patterns within the streams.

The course of these waterways will be profoundly altered when the glacial role as flow controllers is reduced throughout time.

Alteration in surface water sources will significantly affect drinking water supply and wastewater treatment. 

When rainfall is consolidated into intense outbursts, collection and conveyance requirements may expand to help balance variations in precipitations and river rushes between various regions.

Numerous low- and middle-income countries will require investment in water storage to cope with contemporary climate variability.

3. Climate change and declining groundwater

Declining groundwater in Colorado river
Declining groundwater in Colorado river | Image Credit – WWD

Worldwide groundwater recharge is anticipated to vary by not more than 10% by climate change. 

And it might not sound like much; however, it may have significant repercussions in some existing dry places (for instance, Northeast Brazil and Southwest Africa). 

There is still a lot of doubtfulness concerning how shifts in monsoon variations will affect groundwater recharging.

Analysts predict a decrease in groundwater recharge in upcoming decades. And, superficial groundwater in rock surfaces or tiny pools connected to waterways may be the only viable drinking water sources in hilly places. 

Fluctuation in the volume of snow and precipitation, as well as the duration of the dry summer months, could put additional strain on these increasingly stressed water supplies.

According to research conducted in Nepal’s foothills, about four million people in the Kathmandu valley rely on groundwater for most of the year. 

These reserves are strained as demanding pressure for cultivation and household needs grows.

4. Flash floods

Flash Floods
Flash Floods | Image Credit – Pinterest

Climate change has noticeably altered numerous water-related aspects of the environment that lead to flooding, such as rainstorms, excessive melting of glaciers, etc. 

And the tendency is becoming increasingly prominent. In other terms, while climate change does not immediately cause flooding, it amplifies many of the associated causes.

According to the Climate Science Special Report, flood increases in the Mississippi River Valley, the Midwest, the Northeast, and the coastal region. Furthermore, flooding has doubled in the United States in just a few years.

Rising temperature stores more water and discharges into the environment. In the future, extreme rainfall occurrences are expected to increase by 50 percent to three times the historical average during the twenty-first century. 

This scenario comprises extreme weather events such as atmospheric torrents, water-laden air fluxes in the equator. 

Even drizzles can cause significant harm, especially in areas where urban flash floods are on the upswing.

5. Global water scarcity

Women escorting water to their houses on a daily basis
Women escorting water to their houses on a daily basis | Image Credit – Bloomberg City Lab

Water shortages will have numerous repercussions, even if the most significant obvious hazard to human health is a lack of safe drinking water. 

Reduced river and open water can lead to higher concentrations of dangerous contaminants. When streams dry up, wildlife may seek drinking water near residential areas, elevating the chances of human-wildlife contact and any illness-carrying bacteria they harbor. 

A dry spell increases the likelihood of forest fires and dust storms, further irritating the respiratory system.

Breathing and gastrointestinal disorders transmit when consumers do not have enough water for cleanliness, including proper handwashing. 

Infant mortality and overall deaths will increase several-fold, especially in developing and under-developed nations. 

6. Freshwater getting salty

Scientists explaining how climate change is affecting freshwater | Video Credit – Serious Science

As sea levels rise, coastal groundwater supplies may be more vulnerable to saltwater intrusion, which is typically aggravated by the current trend of climate change. 

Drinking water saltiness has already been identified as a massive issue in nations as dissimilar as Bangladesh and the Netherlands.

Hypertension was shown to be higher in pregnant women who drank pumping stations water with significant sodium levels in coastal regions of Bangladesh. 

The possible dangers of higher salinity in drinking water result from rising sea levels and saltwater transfer up streams owing to unannounced cyclone tsunami waves.

Hence, we should either address climate change right away or start developing a technology that can turn seawater into drinkable freshwater.

7. Degrading quality of water

Quality of water degraded in water sources
Quality of water degraded in water sources | Image Credit –

Climate change is projected to considerably influence the quality of natural waters in the coming years. 

Nobody deserves to hear “Do Not Sip and Do Not Heat” when it comes to their neighborhood’s tap water. 

However, the coupled impacts of climate change and deteriorating water quality in the Great Lakes areas may render such advisories increasingly common.

Excessive water temperatures will promote eutrophication and excessive algae bloom in several regions, lowering drinking water quality. 

Likewise, elevated debris or nutrient loads from significant storm surges could also damage the condition of drinking water sources. 

Rising temperatures can cause lethal germs to develop in freshwater sources, making it unsafe to consume.

8. Changes in water cycle patterns

Climate change affecting water cycle | Video Credit –
Carolyn Han

Intense droughts and substantial rainfall are becoming more common due to climate change. So why is that, and more specifically, how does it happen? 

This dynamic movement of water in the atmosphere is accelerated by climate change. As the air temperatures rise, a tremendous amount of water evaporates into the atmosphere at a higher speed. 

Warmer air can carry a higher volume of water vapor, resulting in more severe downpours and excessive floods in coastal towns worldwide.

People in African countries will be the first to suffer from this peril, followed by a few Asian countries. 

Hence, some regions will deal with more severe downpours, while others will deal with more dry air and even extremely lengthy drought.

9. Drowning Nations

Drowning islands in Maldives
Drowning islands in Maldives | Image Credit – Peakpx

While some countries face severe water scarcity and extreme droughts, few others will be immersed in the deep ocean, never to be noticed ever again. 

Some people will have no water to drink, while others will be killed and displaced due to excessive precipitation. And what do we blame? Human-induced climate change!

A total of 12 cities might disappear by 2100 as a result of climate change, and the list includes Jakarta (Indonesia), Lagos (Nigeria), Houston (America), Dhaka (Bangladesh), Venice (Italy), Virginia Beach (America), Bangkok (Thailand), New Orleans (America), Amsterdam (Netherlands), Ho Chi Minh City, (Vietnam) Alexandria (Egypt), and Miami (America). 

10. Changes in Irrigation Patterns

Irrigation patterns
Irrigation patterns | Image Credit – Avid Landscapes

How would we fulfill the irrigational requirements when there isn’t enough water to drink? It is projected that if the same trend in climate change should continue, the world may lose a large variety of crops and vegetation due to a lack of water for irrigation. 

Farmers will stop growing crops that demand a high amount of water, ultimately affecting the world’s food demand.

Locations with severely low water supplies will face exacerbated water stress due to climate change, leading to greater competition for water and even conflict.

To Wrap Up

Overall, more attention and study are needed in the water sector to comprehend better, organize, and mitigate climate change. 

Climate change is already taking place more rigorously than ever before. We need to take action, and saving water is one of the components of the remedy.

Responding quickly to climate change and predicted water consequences would safeguard the ecosystem and possibly spare people’s lives around the globe. 

Improved and efficient water use and the shift to solar-powered water systems will minimize greenhouse gas emissions and protect the earth’s future.

We need to become more water-savvy while becoming eco-friendly to push and counteract climate change. And everyone has a part to play.

(Last Updated on March 23, 2022 by Sadrish Dabadi)

Shradha Bhatta holds a Bachelors’s Degree in Social Work along with a Post-graduate degree in Project Management from Georgian College in Canada. Shradha enjoys writing on a variety of topics and takes pleasure in discovering new ideas. She likes traveling and spending time with nature. She is a very people-person who loves talking about climate change and alerting people to go green!