One of the biggest impacts of climate change on humanity is the effect it has on our precious water resources. We need water for far more than just drinking; although that is vital as our bodies are made up of around 70% water and we need to maintain this balance for good health. We also need water for agriculture, industry, transport, energy, and various other reasons.
Changes in precipitation, warming temperatures and rises in sea levels continue to affect both our water supply and quality. Potential effects may include an increase in water quality impairment, both drought and flooding, as well as salt water encroachment on coastal water supplies.
Water resources are vital to both society and our ecosystems, and changes will also affect human health, navigation, recreation, infrastructure, manufacturing, and many other sectors. Many of these put immense pressure on our water resources though, and this is only likely to increase with and be exacerbated by climate change.
Climate change is a dual-edged sword that both increases water demand and shrinks water supplies. This shifting balance will challenge water companies to meet the needs of sensitive ecosystems, fast-growing communities, farmers, energy producers, and manufacturers.
Other problems that may affect the quality and quantity of our water resources include flooding, increases in runoff, sea level rise and damage to the infrastructure used to transport and deliver water.
We all depend on the water cycle, which is constituted of a delicate balance of precipitation, evaporation, and everything in-between. Rising temperatures increase the rate at which water evaporates into the atmosphere, which can dry put some areas and cause floods in others.
The water cycle has changed much over the past few decades, with the amount of rain falling during the most intense storms having increased by around 20% and more precipitation falling as rain than snow. This means less snow as well as rising temperatures causing earlier snow-melt, both of which change the amount of water in the streams and rivers that form the sources for our water.
Rising temperatures mean more water is needed for humans, agriculture, energy, and livestock and this will only get worse as the temperatures get warmer, which can lead to massive conflicts.