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More heat, less water

Friday, October 10, 2008

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a) No matter how much we disagree with it, global warming is happening. b) Now what do we do?

After years of denial, now there is a sudden – and much needed – flurry of action, acknowledging the warnings of many scientists that the effects of global climate change coupled with growing population and rising consumption trends will first hit our water supplies.

On October 2 the EPA Office of Water issued a National Water Program Strategy: Response to Climate Change with an overview of the likely effects of climate change on the nation’s supply of safe drinking water, clean water for recreational, agricultural and industrial uses, and the health of rivers, streams, ocean coastal waters and other natural habitats.

In EPA’s view, what can we anticipate for the future? Of note, there would be likely increases in water pollution problems, since warmer air temperatures will result in warmer water, leading to lower oxygen levels, higher toxicity of some pollutants and the “dead zones”. These changes would affect aquatic life and cause significant deterioration of aquatic ecosystem health. Further, we all are now attuned to the greater risk of extreme weather-related events and their collective impact on the coastal areas. Finally, all across the country there would be changes to the availability of drinking water supplies, another trend that many cities across the South and Southwest are already experiencing.