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Climate disruption: What are the consequences on access to drinking water?

Climate disruption: What are the consequences on access to drinking water?

Difficult to make the link directly. However, the reality is there. In the name of global warming , the Earth must suffer more and more natural disasters . In several regions of the world, especially in risk areas, the price to pay is heavy. Affording drinking water on a daily basis becomes a problem, a luxury. But climatologists are clear: we must expect more serious consequences. In this mini-file, discover the interaction between climate change and the water cycle and, in turn, access to drinking water.

Global warming and people's access to drinking water: what are the links?

Each March 22 , the world celebrates world water day . But access to water on our planet is increasingly threatened, due to human activity and changing lifestyles which continue to accentuate global warming of the planet.

Given industrial activities and the gases and dust that factories emit, an ever-increasing volume of greenhouse gases is constantly being emitted into the atmosphere. Thus, the ozone layer takes a hit and becomes fragile. The greenhouse effect, which is a natural phenomenon of Heat retention on Earth becomes excessive.

Since 1850, the climate has become increasingly hotter with a rate of increase greater than 0.6°C since the 20th century, even if the effects are unevenly distributed across the globe. And by 2100, CIeau expects to see the level of global warming caused by human-caused air pollution increase from 0.5°C to 1.5 or even 2°C .

But what are its impacts? Why in Mayotte for example, nearly 41,000 people do not have access to safe drinking water services ? What becomes of the right to water , which consists, for each human being, of having affordable, easily accessible water for their personal use in sufficient quantity and of acceptable quality?

The impact of climate change on access to drinking water

It is important to know that global warming acts directly on the hydrological cycle in its entirety. Between disruptions in rainfall patterns, disruption of runoff and multiplication of natural disasters, the consequences are terrible.

More intense drought in high altitudes

When temperatures begin to rise sustainably, we see the accentuation and prolongation of drought in many regions of the world. In subtropical zones, that is to say in high altitudes, water resources are being depleted at a faster rate due to intense drought.

However, for the population to have access to drinking water, there must be a sufficient quantity of water in the groundwater and in rivers . With drought and the reduction in the volume of water available in these environments, it becomes difficult for the population to have enough water for their domestic needs.

From a certain point, populations only really have access to surface waters which are known for their unsanitary conditions and for their vulnerability to pollution. Water shortage is clearly the first direct consequence of climate change.

According to studies, in around twenty years, nearly 600 million children will not have access to drinking water around the world. For certain areas with limited water resources, the risks could be exacerbated.

Contamination of fresh water reserves by sea water

Furthermore, under the effect of global warming, the ice located at the poles as well as the Glaciers begin to melt . However, glaciers are responsible for capturing fresh water which will subsequently be gradually returned to ecosystems during the dry seasons to serve almost 1/6 of the world's population .

With the widespread melting of mountain and sea ice and the disappearance of glaciers, the flow of rivers increases and the Sea levels begin to rise , since high temperatures cause the expansion of sea water, which thus takes up a greater volume. Since the 1990s, we have observed an average annual rise of nearly 3.36 mm in sea levels .

Given the lack of efficient capture and storage infrastructure, seawater flows into fresh water reserves and contaminates them, given their proximity and the natural porosity of the rocks.

The modification of the chemical and biological balance of water

Global warming causes the increase in the temperature of deep waters and surface waters . Far from being a trivial phenomenon, this increase causes an imbalance in the quality of the water available for consumption, especially since the chemical and biological balance is modified. The pH of the water, for example, can be modified .

Of the Pathogens from pipes invade the sea and can end up in fresh water sources, making drinking water unsafe, with risks of infection , gastroenteritis, etc.

An increase in precipitation

In other parts of the world, particularly in regions located in the northern hemisphere, climate change does not cause drought, but the opposite effect . Increased precipitation should be expected . However, coupled with man's inability to retain excessive quantities of water, excessively heavy and violent rains cause even more damage, such as floods, tornadoes, storms, landslides. , coastal erosion, etc.

Greater mobility of pollutants

With the intensification of precipitation caused by global warming in certain regions of the world, the recovery, purification and treatment facilities of wastewater are undermined. They reach a maximum saturation level . As soon as their capacities are exceeded, they begin to spread feces , leading to an increase in water-related or water-borne diseases.

This is, for example, the malaria, dengue fever, cholera, diarrhea , etc. It should be noted that the unsanitary nature of the water is part of main causes of infant mortality in the world , far ahead of armed conflicts.

Water runoff in high altitudes promotes mobility of pollutants and carries the waste which overflows into the sewers and spreads and manages to reach the underground aquifers and in the network, thus making water unfit for consumption .

On the other hand, with the industrial development , an incredible number of physicochemical compounds emitted by factory activity becomes trapped in rainwater, exposing water reserves to significant risks . By 2025 , it is estimated that nearly of 38% of the world's population will have to face the water stress .

In summary, as the UN indicated in its March 22, 2020 report on the right to water, “climate change will affect water services, access to water, availability of water, the quality and quantity of water available to satisfy basic needs, which will undermine the enjoyment of the fundamental rights of several billion people to drinking water and sanitation.” Thus, already in 2019, France was ranked 59th on the list of countries exposed to the risk of water shortage.

Climate disruption and limited access to drinking water: What solutions?

Knowing that she is unevenly distributed across the globe and is more than ever threatened by climate change, water deserves all our attention . What can be done to reduce the impact of global warming on people's access to drinking water?

Even if the level of poverty can exacerbate the problem, high-income households are not really spared, since it is not enough to have a roof over one's head to have drinking water in quantity and in sufficient quality.

Public authorities and populations continue to seek sustainable responses to the problem. One of the most efficient solutions found consists of rethink our modes of production and consumption of water with the aim of preserving our water resources, avoiding wasting them and avoiding overconsumption. We are talking circular economy .

The principle of the circular economy is the opposite of the linear model which requires that we produce, consume and throw away . For example, nearly 85% of this water is discharged without treatment in the world's major cities. But wouldn't it be important to think about providing people with means of sanitation and wastewater depollution? According to the principle of the circular economy, it will be necessary, for example:

  • Prefer the shower to the bath;
  • Detect and repair water leaks early;
  • Favor water-saving devices;
  • Install flow control solutions on taps for example;
  • Promote and encourage industrial and territorial ecology;
  • Recover and recycle water, particularly for watering flowers and other similar needs;
  • Promote the adoption of water filters, to purify tap water and reduce health risks;

Clearly, the circular economy requires that water resources be managed efficiently , so as to be available indefinitely. Based on the observation that drinking water mainly comes from poorly renewable water sources (groundwater for example), the circular economy consists of producing better to consume better and recovering better in order to continue to produce and consume . Thus, the world would be better sheltered from the problem of water shortage.

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