Water Crisis: What Would We Do Without Our Rivers?
As is often said these days, the climate crisis is a water crisis and the consequences of climate change and global warming will be felt worldwide, predominantly in the form of water stress and scarcity. Despite this, however, the water crisis is the least talked about climate-related impact of them all.
The water cycle is already being affected by global warming and the effects of this are clear to see around the world, with extreme weather events like drought and flooding becoming more frequent and more severe, while seasons and rainfalls are also becoming harder to predict.
In order to keep this water cycle in balance, we’ll need to turn to the natural landscape more and more as time goes on, finding solutions to the problem in nature itself – the very same environment that human activity is having such a disastrous impact on.
Protecting ecosystems will protect lives, after all… yet it seems that this message perhaps hasn’t sunk in just yet, with experts now suggesting that global emissions will potentially increase by nearly 14 per cent over this decade.
This will cause rising temperatures in oceans, making them more acidic, as well as damaging freshwater quality and quantity, and affecting soil health. The end result will be the potential destruction of entire ecosystems, with plants and animals unable to keep up with a rapidly changing environment.
The impact of climate change and rising temperatures can easily be seen by taking a look at the state of various rivers around the world.
Rivers represent invaluable sources of fresh drinking water for people all over the world, as well as providing habitats for some of the richest and most endangered biodiversity we have… yet they’re starting to dwindle in the face of climate change, water mismanagement, industry pollution, urbanisation and population growth.
Here, we take a look at some of the rivers around the world that are now at risk of disappearing altogether – unless something is done sooner rather than later.
The Colorado River
The most endangered rivers in the US in 2022 have just been revealed by American Rivers, with the Colorado River coming top of the list, being put at risk by climate change and outdated water management practices.
An eye-watering 40 million people across seven different states, Mexico and thirty federally recognised Tribal Nations rely on this particular river for drinking water, as does an assortment of wildlife, including 30 native fish species and over 400 bird species. Where the fish are concerned, two-thirds of those that call the river home are now threatened or endangered.
As of March this year, water levels at Lake Powell dropped to the lowest point since it was first filled back in 1980. The river itself is already running at a deficit and it’s expected that climate change will see the river flow reduce by between ten and 30 per cent by the year 2050.
In August 2021, the US government announced the very first water shortage declaration of the river, an indication of just how severe the drought is and the associated low reservoir conditions. The total river system storage is now at 40 per cent capacity, a drop from the 49 per cent seen at this time last year.
Lake Chad is one of the biggest freshwater bodies to be found in Africa and represents a source of livelihood for approximately 30 million people – but it seems it’s vanishing rather quickly, shrinking by 90 per cent since the 60s, as a result of overuse, mismanagement and the impacts of climate change.
Governments of those countries affected by the water shortages are now collaborating to find a permanent solution to the problem, with plans including a multi-billion dollar project that will see water channelled from the Ubangi River, 2,400km away from the lake in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
At the UN General Assembly in September 2019, president of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari said: “Lake Chad is shrinking while the population is exploding. It’s a challenging situation. With less land, less rainfall, these are very unique problems for the country.”
The Murray River
Over the last 20 years, average annual inflows to the Murray River in South Australia have fallen by 51 per cent compared to the previous 100 years, according to Dr Matthew Coleman from the Murray-Darling Basin.
If we see a global warming temperature increase of two degrees C, a 20 per cent drop in streamflow would be seen by 2060. Despite a target of limiting temperature rises to 1.5 degrees C as part of the Paris Agreement, the latest report from the UN indicates that the world is currently on track for an increase of 2.7 degrees, the Guardian reports.
A nationwide effort to save the southern basin is now underway, involving the return of 2,750 gigalitres of water to the system in a bid to save ecosystems.. However, climate change could see approximately the same amount evaporate.
Craig Wilkins, chief executive of the Conservation Council of South Australia, warned that a reduction in river flows would mean “Armageddon” for the region, putting wildlife and agriculture at risk.
Of course, these are just three of the world’s rivers that are now facing serious challenges where water flow is concerned, but rest assured that the problem is a widespread one. New research from McGill University in Canada has just revealed that over half the rivers in the world stop flowing for at least one day each year and, if climate change and water mismanagement aren’t addressed, it’s expected that more rivers than this will run dry.
Rivers in the UK will also not be spared in this regard and figures from the WWF show that a quarter of rivers in England are now at risk of drying up.
If you’re keen to do more to protect the nation’s waterways and reduce your water footprint at the same time, get in touch with the SwitchWaterSupplier.com team today to find out how switching water supplier could do just that!