· UNESCO

Water resources an essential part of the solution to climate change

Rain

Climate change will affect the availability, quality and quantity of water needed for basic human needs, thus undermining enjoyment of the basic rights to safe drinking water and sanitation for billions of people, warns the latest UN World Water Development Report.

Increased water usage

Water use has increased sixfold over the past century and is rising by about 1% a year. However, it is estimated that climate change, along with the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme events – storms, floods and droughts, will aggravate the situation in countries already currently experiencing ‘water stress’ and generate similar problems in areas that have not been severely affected. Furthermore, the report highlights the fact that poor water management tends to exacerbate the impacts of climate change, not only on water resources but on society as a whole. 

Health effects, threat to biodiversity

Indeed, water quality will be affected by increased water temperatures and a decrease in dissolved oxygen, leading to a reduction in the self-purification capacity of freshwater basins. We will see increased risks of water pollution and pathogen contamination caused by floods or higher concentrations of pollutants during periods of drought. In addition to the impact on food production, the effects on physical and mental health – linked to disease, injury, financial loss and the displacement of people – are therefore likely to be considerable.

Many ecosystems, particularly forests and wetlands, are also under threat, reducing biodiversity. Water supplies will be affected, not only for agriculture – which accounts for 69% of freshwater withdrawals – but also for industry, energy production and even fisheries.

Areas most at risk: archipelagos, mountains, tropics and Far North

Much of the impact of climate change on water resources will be manifested in the tropics, where most developing countries are located, with potentially apocalyptic consequences for small island states, some of which could be wiped off the map. Mountainous areas are also exceptionally vulnerable through impacts on mountain glaciers and snowcaps, which show a decreasing trend almost everywhere in the world. The authors recognize, however, that a number of uncertainties remain, particularly at the local level and due to the seasonal variability of rainfall patterns.

The whole article can be found here

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