Effects of Climate Change on Water Resources

10 Top Effects of Climate Change on Water Resources

Climate change impacts the world’s water in complex ways. Global warming is altering every stage of the water cycle. 

In this article, we will look at the Effects of Climate Change on Water Resources.

These changes will put pressure on drinking water supplies, food production, and property values. 

Depending on the region, climate change has been proven to have widely differing effects on our water. Higher temperatures will generally intensify the global hydrological cycle. 

Annual precipitation trends indicate that some areas have become wetter over the last century, whereas some other areas have become drier.

Also, over the last century annual river discharge has increased in some regions, while it has fallen in others.

But that’s not all, climate change also tends to increase the frequency and intensity of rainfall; there may be an increase in the occurrence of flooding due to heavy rainfall events. 

Groundwater recharge may also be affected by a reduction in the availability of groundwater for drinking water in some regions.

In this research, we have stated the effects of Climate Change on Water Resources and what can be done. 

What is climate change?

The term climate change refers to how the Earth’s climate changes over time. 

These changes can be caused by long-term natural processes (such as changes in the Earth’s orbit) but people often use the term ‘climate change’ to refer to how our climate is being affected by human activities.

The main change we are facing today is increasing average temperatures (which is also referred to as global warming) but there are also other changes including rainfall patterns and some extreme weather events.

Causes of Climate Change 

  1. The greenhouse effect traps the Sun’s energy at the Earth’s surface. It is essential for life on Earth.
  1. The enhanced greenhouse effect is where extra greenhouse gases in our atmosphere trap too much of the Sun’s energy. This causes a warming effect, which some people call global warming. 
  1. Measurements and models show clearly that warming is mostly caused by greenhouse gases produced by humans. 
  1. The warming is changing our climate. It is changing our weather patterns, causing sea level rise and ocean acidification. These combined effects are called climate change. 

Effects of Climate Change on Water Resources

  • Evaporation 
  • Precipitation 
  • Surface Runoff and Stream Flow
  • Water Quality 
  • Oceans
  • Cloud 
  • Changes in Water Demand 
  • Sea Level Rise 
  • Heatwaves 


Warmer air can hold more moisture than cool air. As a result, in a warmer world, the air will suck up more water from oceans, lakes, soil, and plants. The drier conditions this air leaves behind could negatively affect drinking water supplies and agriculture.

On the flip side, the warmer, wetter air could also endanger human lives. A study found that higher humidity will make future higher temperatures unbearable in some places, by blocking the cooling effects of our sweat.


When all that extra warm, extra wet air cools down, it drops extra rain or snow to the ground. Thus, a warmer world means we get hit with heavier rain and snowstorms.

By changing air temperatures and circulation patterns, climate change will also change where precipitation falls.

Most of the rest of the world is at risk of experiencing more severe short-term droughts, too. Researchers within the Earth Institute have found that climate change may already have exacerbated past and present droughts and that drier conditions are making wildfires worse.

It is therefore no doubt that changes in precipitation patterns will challenge many farmers, as well as natural ecosystems.

Surface Runoff and Stream Flow

The heavier bursts of precipitation caused by warmer, wetter air can lead to flooding, which can of course endanger human lives, damage homes, kill crops, and hurt the economy.

Research is being carried out to identify the specific causes of catastrophic flooding, in order to more accurately predict them, to save lives and property. 

The project also made projections about how flooding will change as the world continues to warm. 

Heavier rainstorms will also increase surface runoff — the water that flows over the ground after a storm. 

This moving water may strip nutrients from the soil and pick up pollutants, dirt, and other undesirables, flushing them into nearby bodies of water. 

Those contaminants may muck up our water supplies and make it more expensive to clean the water to drinking standards. 

In addition, as runoff dumps sediments and other contaminants into lakes and streams, it could harm fish and other wildlife. 

Fertilizer runoff can cause algae blooms that ultimately end up suffocating aquatic critters and causing a stinky mess. 

The problem is compounded by warming water, which can’t hold as much of the dissolved oxygen that fish need to survive. 

These conditions could harm fisheries, and make conditions unpleasant for folks who like to use lakes and streams for fishing, swimming, and other recreational activities.

Water Quality 

Poor water quality has far-reaching impacts on people, communities, wildlife, industries, and the economy. 

Climate change is causing changes to our weather and oceans which can reduce the quality of water resources, including:

  • sea level rise, which pushes salt water further up coastal waterways, contaminating freshwater
  • more extreme storms and rainfall events, which erode and wash soil into waterways, reducing water quality
  • warmer waters in storage facilities such as dams, which can increase the risk of bacterial or algal growth
  • drought conditions, which make naturally occurring salts more concentrated in waterways through evaporation and a decrease in the frequency of high flow events that ‘flush’ out salts.

These impacts can make water resources unsuitable for human water supplies and agriculture, and damage freshwater ecosystems.


Warmer temperatures and increasing acidity are making life difficult for sea creatures. These changes are transforming food chains from the bottom up. 

In addition, many fish are moving poleward in search of cooler waters, which has implications for the fishing industry and people who like to eat fish.

Temperature changes also have the potential to alter major ocean currents. Because ocean temperatures drive atmospheric circulation patterns, this could change weather patterns all over the world. 

Climate scientist Richard Seager from Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory has found that higher ocean surface temperatures could make rainfall more variable, and thus less predictable, from year to year.

And of course, as ice sheets and mountaintop glaciers melt, they’re dumping extra water into the oceans; the resulting sea level rise jeopardizes coastal properties around the world.


Ordinarily, as winter snowpack melts in the springtime, it slowly adds fresh water to rivers and streams and helps to replenish drinking water supplies.

However, as the air warms, many areas are receiving more of their precipitation as rain rather than snow. 

This means less water is being stored for later as snowpack. In addition, the rain actually accelerates the melting of snow that’s already on the ground.

The lack of snowpack can lead to drier conditions later in the year, which can be bad news for regions that rely on snowmelt to refill their drinking water supplies.

Changes in snowpack can also negatively impact wildlife and income from skiing and winter tourism.


 A study last year found that increasing summer heat is driving the morning clouds of some regions.

This lack of clouds allows more sunlight to strike the ground, raising temperatures further, and exacerbating drying and the risk of wildfires.

Changes in Water Demand

In addition to changing the water cycle, climate change could change how we use water and how much we need. 

Higher temperatures and evaporation rates could increase the demand for water in many areas. 

Sea Level Rise

Sea levels are rising as a result of climate change. This rise is likely to accelerate over the coming century and continue for centuries. 

The impacts of sea level rise include permanent flooding (inundation) of low-lying areas and increased frequency, extent, and depth of tidal inundation. 

Sea level rise will also cause most sandy beaches to recede (where beaches will move further inland) and erode.

All of these changes will damage our infrastructure, industries, and coastal ecosystems, and affect our coastal communities.

Sea level rise is very likely to continue even if greenhouse gas emissions are reduced. For this reason, adaptation planning for ongoing coastal change is critical.


A heatwave is when maximum and minimum temperatures stay unusually high for 3 or more days. 

Heatwaves affect waterbodies – heatwaves increase the temperature of water bodies. 

Heatwaves also put pressure on our infrastructure and services, and affect our environment and agriculture. 

Climate change will also mean that we have more heatwaves, and they will be hotter and longer than they are now. 

Changes to our mode of living will help to reduce the impact of coming heat waves on our water bodies. Check out the 10 Reasons Why Online Education is a Great Investment and the 10 Worst Places To Live In The Netherlands.

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