What are the impacts of climate change on water resources?

Climate change can increase the temperature which will generally result in intensifying the global hydrological cycle

Climate change is a phenomenon which occurs when there is change in earth’s climate system which can result in change of weather patterns that can last for a few decades or may even extend to millions of years.

Climate change has also been impacting water resources.Various outcomes related to water resources are shift in precipitation patterns along with snow cover, increase in temperature which can also result in frequent flooding and droughts. The quality of water and our reliability on water resources are endangered by climate change. They are found affecting the ecosystems and livelihood. Because of the growing population, there is increasing demand of groundwater along with surface water supplies that has caused a lot of stress for the environment and it has resulted in declining runoff and the need to recharge groundwater.

We can give the example of how water resources have been affecting Europe’s water resources. The annual precipitation trends in Europe indicates that the northern Europe has become 10% – 40% wetter over the last century, whereas southern Europe has become up to 20% drier. We can analyze the climate change pattern from the last century as the annual river discharge has increased in some regions like the Eastern Europe whereas it has fallen in southern Europe.


Climate change can increase the temperature which will generally result in intensifying the global hydrological cycle. As temperature increases, more water evaporates into the air. Warmer air can hold more amount of water vapor which can create more intense rainstorms which causes major problems like the case of extreme flooding in coastal communities around the world. Calamities such as intense rain, droughts and floods occur at a natural rate in the environment and temperature can rise which can lead to greater evaporation rates and plant transpiration  resulting in water loss in soil and plants.

Especially in many areas of the United States, particularly the West is facing huge water shortages at the moment. The amount of water found in these areas is already very limited and demand will continue to rise as population grows in the rapid rate that it is growing. Most of the areas in the West have experienced very less rain over the past 50 years. This has also resulted in the increase in the extremity along with the length of droughts. It has been a special concern in the Southwest since a while now.

Similarly, in the western part of the United States there is small amount of annual rainfall. Earlier snowmelt will facilitate people during the summer months when demand is the highest but it will make it even more difficult for the water managers to satisfy water demands throughout the year. Along with this there is the problem of having lesser snowpack in the mountains.

Along with this the quality of water supply in coastal and island regions is at risk because of the rising sea level and changes in the level of precipitation. The rising in sea level with the occurrence of drought can increase the saltiness of both surface water and ground water through salt water intrusion.

There are a number of impacts created on water resources and hydropower which have direct link to the rising temperatures. This situation has led us to observe and believe with high confidence to increase temperature further over the coming decades. This can further result in glacier retreat, sedimentation, landslides, and flooding from intense precipitation events.  This results in even greater unreliability of dry season flows which can possess potency of creating serious risks to energy and water supplies in slant season.

Similarly, other impacts can be increase in drought frequency and windstorm, unpredictable precipitation patterns, warming days, changing of the season, decrease in natural water sources etc. These impacts have been quite visible in our community nowadays and it has created a sense of uncertainty amongst us. Climate change has not just impacted the agricultural area but directly affected our drinking water problems as well.

There are many impacts of climate change on water availability along with water quality. It affects many sectors such as infrastructure, human health, including energy production and ecosystems.

Freshwater resources will be difficult to assess in the future because of the rapidly changing geographical use of water supply.  Many numerical experiments have been conducted combining socioeconomic information, climate model outputs along digitized river networks. They demonstrated results such as:

  1. A large proportion of the world’s population is currently experiencing water stress.
  2. The increase in water demands greatly outweigh greenhouse warming in accordance to the state of global water systems of 2025. This has been estimated with due consideration of direct human impacts on global water supply which remains a poorly articulated but possibly an important aspect of the larger global change question.
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