Risks to urban water supplies
Think you don’t really need to worry about water in your area? Think again. Here is a partial list of the issues confronting urban water supplies.
Sea levels on the rise. For coastal cities, water quality will be further eroded by rising sea levels, which can increase salt concentra- tions in groundwater and estuarine rivers.
Flooding on the rise. Increased flooding will affect hundreds of millions of people who live close to coastlines, flood plains and deltas. Even inland cities face the problem of flooding as a result of more intense rainfall or snowmelt.
Storms on the rise. Hurricanes, tornadoes and other extreme weather events will become more frequent and rainfall more intense in many areas.
Droughts on the rise. Meanwhile, some regions will receive less rainfall than usual, leading to droughts more severe than in the past.
Fresh water on the decline. Higher temperatures reduce the amount of water stored in mountain snowfields. They also dry out the soil, which then soaks up more water, reducing the recharge of underground aquifers. The result could be reductions in available water for drinking, household use and industry.
Water quality on the decline. Water quality will become a concern for some cities. Changes in rainfall patterns may change the watershed, affecting quality. Contamination of water wells due to industrial and agricultural pollutants will also have an adverse effect.
Aging infrastructure. Water and wastewater infrastructure in cities around the world is aging and must be replaced to protect its efficiency and the quality of its product.
Competition from agriculture. According to the World Economic Forum, to meet demand from growing populations we will need to grow and process 70% more food by 2050. Yet as early as 2030 we will be confronting a water shortage of approximately 40% due to a toxic combination of rising demand and climate-change-driven shifts.
Competition from recreation. In some parts of the world, boaters, skiers, fishermen, campers and other outdoor enthusiasts have mounted strong protests when cities attempt to get more water from popular lakes and rivers.