Freshwater resources are one of the prime victims of climate change.
Findings from Research
- More than one-sixth of the world’s population is dependent for water on glacier melt and seasonal snow packs. The effects would arise from an initial increase in annual water flows due to the rapid melting of the glaciers, followed by a decrease in the flows due to a decrease in the water volume stored in glaciers and snow packs. Such a situation would result in initial floods and eventually long drought periods in the regions that are dependent on melting of glaciers for their water supply. In addition, rapid melting of glaciers can lead to the formation of glacial melt-water lakes, which may pose a serious threat of GLOFs (Glacial Lake Outburst Floods).
- Semi-arid and arid areas are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change on fresh water, as the rainfall and river water availability are distributed over just a few months. Efforts to offset declining surface water availability due to increasing precipitation variability will be hampered by the fact that groundwater recharge is likely to decrease considerably in some already water-stressed regions.
- Increased melting of glaciers and subsequent sea level rise will lead to salinization of ground water and salt intrusion of estuaries, resulting in a decrease in freshwater availability for humans and for ecosystems in coastal areas.
- The scientific community projects that that up to 20% of the world’s population living in river basins will be affected by flood hazards by the 2080s due to global warming (IPCC, 2007).
- Higher sea surface temperatures, increased precipitation intensity, and longer periods of low flows will further intensify many forms of water pollution, which will have adverse impacts on ecosystems, human health, water system reliability, and operating costs.