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Limited Water Availability and Quantity

Climate change disrupts the water cycle by drying soil and causing the groundwater streams which are essential for drinking to dry up. Both drought and over-precipitation (deluge), the two sides of climate change's effects, harm the natural cycle.

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Kids Fight Climate Change Team

A Section of the Los Angeles River Affected by Drought

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 since 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 as the soils "suck up" more water, rather than allowing it to permeate below the surface. 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. As the water crisis worsens, it can lead to poverty and even small- or large-scale conflict in some countries.


Fecht, Sarah. “How Climate Change Impacts Our Water.” State of the Planet. Earth Institute, Columbia University, September 23, 2019.

“How Will Climate Change Impact on Water Security?” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, December 21, 2012.

University of New South Wales. "The long dry: Why the world's water supply is shrinking." ScienceDaily, December 13, 2018.

“Groundwater Awareness Week.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, October 26, 2020.

“Water Scarcity.” United Nations Water. United Nations, November 24, 2014.

Ding, Ya, Michael J. Hayes, and Melissa Widhalm. “Measuring Economic Impacts of Drought: a Review and Discussion.” Disaster Prevention and Management: An International Journal 20, no. 4 (August 30, 2011): 434–46.

Image: Rainey, Joshua, and Melissa Petruzzello. A Section of the Los Angeles River Affected by Drought. April 14, 2020. Encyclopedia Britannica.

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