Weather patterns across the globe are being affected by climate change and this is posing serious challenges to the ecosystem and to the world’s water supply. It is also affecting reliable access to clean water for many communities; it is causing a water-scarcity as well as poor water quality, and placing significant stress on the water infrastructure.
The impacts of climate change on the water sector include:
- Abstraction: There is more pressure on scarce water resources that are already scarce, due to higher temperatures and less rainfall in the summer;
Consumption: Demand for water will increase as the climate warms;
- Distribution: Vital assets are at more of a risk of flooding, and changes in moisture levels in the soil may lead to different patterns of pipe bursts and leaks;
- Drainage: The current approach to drainage is being challenged by changing rainfall patterns and climate change is only going to increase the risk of sewer flooding as well as surface water flooding – one of the most serious types of service failure. Damage caused by overflows of untreated wastewater into the environment may also increase;
- Precipitation: The risk of droughts can increase due to the changing patterns in rainfall which make it more difficult to meet demand;
- Treatment: Heavier and more frequent downpours and changes to the ecology of rivers may reduce the quality of the water, which means that it would require more treatment;
- Wastewater Treatment and Discharge: Decreased river flows may mean that more carbon-intensive sewage treatment will be required to ensure that rivers are protected.
Addressing the full impact of climate change on the water industry will require innovative solutions that ensure that adequate levels of water supply to communities are maintained and that high standards of water quality are ensured even in droughts and floods, as well as improvements in infrastructure.