The World Bank has published a report stating that the global water crisis is becoming more serious. This study finds that droughts are becoming more frequent, and that floods are also increasing. Coral reefs are also dwindling as ocean heat waves increase. These conditions are predicted to cause coral reefs to decline by more than 70 percent.
Drought frequency and duration have increased by nearly a third globally since 2000
The United Nations reports that drought frequency and duration have increased by nearly a third globally over the past two decades. These changes are driven by climate change, which is altering drought patterns. In the coming years, more droughts are expected to occur.
Droughts impact economies, agricultural production, human health and the natural environment. They also affect biodiversity, water supply and energy production. Compared to heatwaves, drought events are not as clear-cut in attribution.
Since the mid-20th century, more than 10 million people have died due to major drought events. Droughts are expected to increase with warming. There is a growing risk of droughts in vulnerable regions.
Water shortages are a serious threat to 40% of the world's population. More than 2.3 billion people currently face water stress, with 216 million facing migration by 2050.
One in four children worldwide will be exposed to extreme water shortages by 2040. With warming, water supply-demand deficits could increase fivefold in southern Europe, most of Africa and the central and southern states of the United States.
Floods are expected to grow along the coasts
Many cities are expected to be severely threatened by coastal flooding in the 21st century. The threat will be more concentrated in human-built floodplains than in natural ones.
A number of factors contribute to the increase in flood risk. More precipitation is saturating the water catchments. Additionally, climate change is causing increased pressure on the waterbodies. This is intensifying storm surges, which can lead to devastating flooding.
For example, the recent hurricanes in the United States and the United Kingdom led to extreme flooding, with the amount of rain received in some areas equal to one month of rainfall in 48 hours. Furthermore, cities like Boston, Massachusetts and Bar Harbor, Maine are exceeding flood thresholds five times more frequently than they did in the 1950s.
Although it is not a certainty, the risk of high tide flooding will continue to increase in the U.S. and worldwide. Coastal urbanization and population growth is accelerating.
Coral reefs are expected to decline by 70 to 90 percent from ocean heat waves
Coral reefs, which provide important ecosystem services to almost a billion people worldwide, are on the decline. Global warming is a contributing factor. But corals can also be influenced by pollution, such as sewage. This study suggests that the world's coral reefs are likely to die off over the next 20 years.
The decline of corals raises concerns about food security, infrastructure, and the health and safety of coastal societies. In addition to providing critical food, corals also protect shorelines from erosion. They are considered a major natural wonder of the world. However, their survival depends on global average temperatures.
Studies have shown that coral reefs are susceptible to ocean heat waves. A recent study found that ocean warming will cause a loss of about 70 to 90 percent of the world's coral reefs. These reefs provide habitats for many species. Some species will move to higher latitudes.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has released several science reports that look at the ramifications of ocean warming. It also explored the implications of ocean acidification, a potentially fatal condition for corals.
Green infrastructure and wastewater recycling
The impacts of climate change on wastewater systems are important to understand, but also complicated. These impacts can have cascading impacts that have far reaching implications for the health of communities and the adaptive capacity of local governments. It is vital for the wastewater sector to develop a better understanding of climate change and its implications, and to identify ways to adapt.
Water systems across the United States are under stress from drought and historic flooding. As climate change impacts increase, these risks will exacerbate existing problems and present additional challenges to the management of water resources.
Climate change is a leading contributor to natural disasters. For example, the Flint water crisis was national news a few years ago. There is also a lack of infrastructure maintenance in many areas. A study published in 2020 estimates that by 20 years from now, $2.2 trillion will have to be invested to meet infrastructure shortfalls.
Water treatment plants can be affected by storms, causing road closures that prevent access to the plant. Also, power outages can disrupt wastewater treatment facilities. In addition, aging infrastructure can be weakened by a warming climate.