Global warming has been a reality for some time now, and one of its consequences is the significant impact it has on the availability and quality of water. Rising temperatures, melting glaciers, undiversified precipitation and the increased frequency of droughts are among the direct effects global warming has on water. Ultimately these developments will lead to a decrease in water supplies and can have possibly dire consequences for the global population.
Due to human-accelerated climate change, earth’s glaciers are melting at an unprecedented and alarming rate. Glaciers provide a crucial source of fresh water located in high-altitude regions such as the Himalayas, the Alps and other mountain regions. Studies show that glaciers and ice sheets are losing an estimated 413 gigatons of water annually, a rate much faster than the planet can replenish and restore the natural balance. This melting of glaciers not only affects the water supply in their immediate vicinity, but their effects can be felt across the globe as the meltwater flows back into our common ocean and changes the sea-level.
Besides the melting of glaciers, intense weather events such as heavy rainfalls also present a challenge. Climate change leads to more extreme weather systems, with forecasts predicting more variability in the amount and location of precipitation. In some areas this can heavily impact the local agriculture, as extreme rainfalls might cause flooding and interfere with the cultivation of crops. In turn, fragile local economies are more easily affected by such weather events, creating a sense of insecurity for the population.
Furthermore, global warming is also closely linked to drought. The increase of temperatures causes an increase in evaporation of bodies of water, leading to conditions not suitable for efficient crop growth, which affects both the local population and our global food and water supply. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be a sign of immediate improvement, as projects estimate a 40% decrease in water availability in Southern Europe and increasingly arid climates which could have significant effects in this area.
At the local level, governments have started to increase water conservation and implement methods of storing and recycling of water. This is done to create a buffer and allow a system of water-usage with increased sustainability. Such methods of water storage can include reservoirs, aquifers and lakes. Certain plants can be grown in water-short environments to increase sustainability, like drought-resistant crops or aquaponics. A positive example of such an initiative is the city of Las Vegas, which over the last two decades has reduced its water-consumption levels by 19%.
Overall, it is paramount for governments, scientific bodies and citizens to combine forces and take decisive action to reduce the effects of climate change promptly. Enhancing Water Conservation techniques and an increased focus on the preservation of the planet from pollution and landfill are the essential elements of such a strategy. Regional water supplies need to be monitored carefully to assure sustainability and distribute the much-needed supplies in an equitable way. It is only with our combined efforts that we have a chance of countering the effects of global warming and safeguarding our common water sources for future generations.