Limited Water Availability and Quantity
Climate change has a profound effect on the water cycle in many different ways. The warmer temperatures of climate change result in a higher evaporation rate than normal. This is because warmer air can hold more water than colder air, so the warmer air sucks up more water from the earth. A higher evaporation rate will result in a drier environment with drier soil conditions, allowing less water in essential groundwater streams. This effect is due to the soil "sucking up" more water because of its dry condition. Furthermore, the increase of heavy rain, or deluge, expected from climate change only exacerbates this dry soil effect. While more rain may seem like a good thing, it increases the rate of flow between the atmosphere and the ocean, meaning that freshwater moves more quickly between the two. As a result, we are unable to tap into the water supply nearly as much. Also, despite the projected global increase in rain, already dry regions will experience a decrease in precipitation, meaning that they will have more direct water scarcity. In all, climate change alters the water cycle disruptively, meaning that it exacerbates the extremes of the spectrum, like drought, heat, and deluge, which all harm the water supply.
Quite obviously, freshwater is a vital part of our livelihood. Already, there is a global water crisis, brought on by conflict and geographical disparities, affecting over a billion people. But by exacerbating drought and deluge and lessening rain in dry places, climate change is multiplying the water crisis with the potential to thrust millions or even billions more into scarcity.
Effects Category: Effects on Freshwater
Effects: Deluge and Changing Precipitation
Effects: Droughts and Wildfires
Effects: Degrading Water Quality
Image: Rainey, Joshua, and Melissa Petruzzello. A Section of the Los Angeles River Affected by Drought. April 14, 2020. Encyclopedia Britannica.
Fecht, Sarah. “How Climate Change Impacts Our Water.” State of the Planet. Earth Institute, Columbia University, September 23, 2019.
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Last Updated: Jan 31, 2021