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Climate Change Impact on Water Cycles Results in Global Challenges

The impact of climate change on global water cycles will continue to have a negative impact on all aspects of life, according to a World Bank report.

“Growing populations, rising incomes and expanding cities will converge upon a world where the demand for water rises exponentially, while supply becomes more erratic and uncertain,” the report explained. “If current water management policies persist, and climate models prove correct, water scarcity will proliferate to regions where it currently does not exist and will greatly worsen in regions where water is already scarce.”

The regions that will experience the most negative impact of a “business as usual” approach to water usage and management are the Middle East, North Africa and Asia.

Economic growth – particularly in nations relying heavily on agricultural outputs – will continue to be hindered by irregular rainfall.

Poor harvests will become more common resulting in food shortages that will increase tensions within nations and result in more migration. Increased global movements of people will strain the nations receiving migrants.

“Recognizing the interlinkages between water for food, energy, cities and the environment through an ‘expanded water nexus,’ which acknowledges that the fortunes of these sectors are tied through a common dependence on water” is vital, World Bank emphasized.

The report underscored the importance of improved water management systems as a tool not only to mitigate climate change, but also to reduce poverty and increase food security.

Three initiatives were set forth to mitigate climate change’s impact of water cycles:

1. Optimize water usage by increasing water efficiency and regulating water so that everyone has enough while limiting waste.

2. Expand water available in arid regions while implementing safeguards to manage usage.

3. Invest in infrastructure to mitigate impacts of extreme weather through water storage systems to address drought, and seawalls, levees and dams to address flooding.

“Water is the common currency which links nearly every SDG [Sustainable Development Goal], and it will be a critical determinant of success,” the report stated. “Smart water policy is fundamental to smart climate policy and smart development policy.”

The full report is available here and an executive summary is available here.