How will climate change affect water security?

Dry torn up soil
Image: verändert durch FAU

How can communities and agriculture adapt?

On this World Water Day, we take a look at what the latest IPCC report says about water security and the effects climate change has on it.

Depending on the region, climate change for one causes dry spells and droughts, decreasing water availability, especially in the arid areas of India, China, the USA and Africa. As a result, the concentration of contaminants may rise. The other extreme is flooding, which also affects the quality of water where it becomes unsafe for drinking, e.g. because pollutants are washed into water bodies. In addition, in coastal regions, rising water levels and storms increase the degree of salinization.

Another aspect to keep in mind regarding water security is water infrastructure for access, disposal and sanitation. Water infrastructure is crucial und therefor delicate. It can easily be damaged due to the rising number of storms, floods and other extremes caused by climate change.

The largest user of water adapts

On a global scale, agriculture is the largest user of water, accounting for 50 to 90% of all water use. With a rising number of droughts and floods risking food security, farmers continually need to find ways to adapt to meet water demands for their crops, fish and livestock. What has proven to be beneficial with regard to water security and also income is e.g. the adoption of flood and drought resistant seeds, on-farm water and soil moisture conservation, irrigation and water-saving technologies, or adapting the timing of sowing and reaping to new rainfall patterns. What is not yet clear about these solutions though is if they also reduce climate related risks.

Communities and their traditional knowledge are key to success

Adapting to changes in water availability is not only a task for farmers but needs to include communities as a whole for long-term success. Especially the most vulnerable need to be taken into account for measures to be bear fruit. In addition, the importance of local Indigenous Knowledge and traditional ecological knowledge is highlighted: Not only does their consideration align with the interests of the respective local communities, it results in greater effectiveness of the adaption strategies.

FAU’s ‘Info bites’ on the effects of climate change.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll publish info bites, small bits of information, about the outcomes of the report to show how climate change affects everybody and how we can work to limit its effects.

IPCC Report info bites

About the World Climate Report

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change. In their latest report, published in late February, scientists outline the state of scientific, technical and socio-economic knowledge on climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for reducing the rate at which climate change is taking place. One of the report’s main authors is Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Kiessling, head of the Chair of Palaeontology.

Wolfgang Kießling on the Wolrd Climate Report