The countries, or HICs, will be able afford the

The Impact of Climate Change on Water and Water Supplies

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We can live without water for just three days. Water resources are important to
both society and ecosystems. We depend on a reliable, clean supply of drinking
water to sustain our health. We also need water for agriculture, energy
production, navigation, recreation, and manufacturing. Water security is a big issue in some
countries.  In short, water supply is
already an issue and it’s going to get worse due to climate change, which we’ll
discuss in this pod.

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Global warming is set to produce issues with both
the quantity and quality of water available. You might be thinking that this
won’t affect you, but it will affect countries at all income levels. The
shrinking of mountain glaciers and earlier snow melt will reduce the amount of
drinking water available for millions of people.  Sea level rise, especially in low lying
areas, may well pollute drinking water that comes from groundwater. With an
increase in the number of extreme weather events, sewer systems may overflow
and pollute drinking water supplies.

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A lack of water will affect agriculture and
manufacturing.  If there is less
meltwater from snow, then less water will be available for irrigation.  This will lead to lower crop yields and
higher crop prices.  High-income
countries, or HICs, will be able afford the higher prices, but low-income
countries, or LICs, will not.  If we also
factor in that LICs may not be able to produce export crops, then the situation
becomes even more serious. 

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LICs that already experience water
shortages will find themselves in a worse situation.  As a result, some 1.1 billion people worldwide lack access
to water, and a total of 2.7 billion find water scarce for at least one month of
the year. Inadequate sanitation is also a problem for 2.4 billion people. They
are exposed to diseases such as cholera and typhoid fever, and other
water-borne illnesses. Two million people, mostly children, die each year from
diarrhoea.  Without the impact of global
warming, population growth alone will mean two thirds of the world’s population
may face water shortages. With less water available, this will only get
worse. 

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The manufacturing industry will be affected as
the production of goods involves the use of water. A loaf a bread requires 240
gallons of water and a pair of jeans needs 1800 gallons to water the
cotton.  Do some research into the water
footprint of other things we use in everyday life – you’ll be amazed at what
you find out!

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But it’s even more complicated than that – what
about the industries that get their electricity from hydroelectric or tidal
power?  Higher temperatures will cause
more evaporation, which will result in lower river and lake levels. Increased temperatures caused by
climate change enable the atmosphere to hold more water. This increase is
around 4 percent for every 1 degree Fahrenheit.  So, this obviously means there’s less usable
water available.

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Falling water levels reduce the capacity of
hydroelectric plants. Navigation will also be affected if water levels drop. The
capacity of ships to carry goods safely without running aground may reduce. In
the worst case scenario, bigger ships may become redundant.  As a result of this, we may use more air and
road transport. If this is the case, then emissions will increase and we will
further speed up global warming.

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Water isn’t just vital for life, we use it for
recreation too. Less snow and earlier springs will greatly affect winter
sports. If water levels in lakes and rivers are lower, then marinas and
moorings will become useless. Think about all of the different things these are
used for.

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Whilst some areas become drier and experience
drought, areas that are already wet may well become wetter, which will result
in flooding.  Flooding will also occur as
a result of sea level rise and the thermal expansion of seawater.  This is of greater concern than rainwater
flooding, as land will be lost and flooding by saltwater causes land to become
toxic and infertile. Think of the effects this would have on the agricultural
industry.

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So, the issue of
water supply and security is set to continue. Keep an eye on the news for
up-to-date information on how climate change is impacting on water supply in
specific countries.