Water Security in a Resource-Strained World: Part 3 of 5: Effects of Climate Change

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Posted by: Christopher L. Overcash, PE, BCEE, LEED AP, ENV SP

Part 3 of this water security blog will focus on the effects of climate change, which can be sorted into four main categories: water issues, food issues, damage to infrastructure, and disease vectors to higher latitudes.

When it comes to expected sea level rise, climate change will certainly impact coastal infrastructure. However, another significant impact will be the breaching of near-shore freshwater aquifers with saltwater intrusion. This is currently occurring in many areas of the world today. One such area is south Florida where over the next 10 to 15 years, saltwater encroachment may impact the main water supply source of Miami.

Much of the details of the effects of climate change when it comes to weather patterns globally are still to be deciphered. However, it is predicted that the agricultural yield in the developing world will be reduced by 10 to 25%. Global pressures on water demand, availability and accessibility are expected to tighten the margin between average water supply and demand.

Another significant impact of climate change expected within this century is the continued reduction of mountain glaciers. Most significantly this will have an impact on glaciers in the Tibetan Plateau, home to the Himalayan mountain range. This area supplies at least a portion of the water to two billion people. The glacial melt waters from this area are the head waters of such rivers as the Yangtze in China and the Indus in Central Asia. It is predicted that this entire glacial system may have melted by 2100.