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Water Scarcity: Implications in the Face of Climate Change

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Water scarcity already affecting nations

Water is a natural resource vital to life and all development. Water scarcity already impacts regions around the world, including those nations with boundaries that are located partially in Africa's Sahel region and countries in the Middle East.  

As climate change impacts escalate, water resources are likely to become more scarce, even in regions where there are currently abundant supplies such as East Asia and Central Africa. Failure to address this issue will likely intensify issues already developing from water scarcity in regions.

Risks from water insecurity

Water security is broadly defined as the ability of a specific population to safeguard adequate quantities and quality of water for sustaining livelihoods. Water insecurity poses a number of risks for those nations that it affects, including threatening agricultural supplies and creating food shortages and increased prices, health risks, and reduced incomes, any of which could spur regional or national conflicts.

Water insecurity may also increase migration due to the lack of sustaining resources, or from extreme weather pattern events that create floods and droughts, further impacting local and regional economies and possibly exacerbating conflicts.

Increasing populations, including the exponential growth of cities and urban expansion, along with an increase in incomes, will place higher demands on water resources. These issues will likely be compounded by severe stresses on erratic water supplies that result from altered weather patterns caused by climate change.

The impact of climate change on water supplies

A recent report by the World Bank found that action is needed now to reduce the impacts of climate change on water supplies. The report suggested that increasing efficiency and implementing water conservation methods even a mere 25 percent can significantly reduce losses, and possibly even prevent some of the more adverse impacts, such as conflict.

In the face of climate change stresses, a more efficient use of water that increases its availability and can lead to regional resilience and possibly increase growth by up to six percent. The report noted that the availability of water and its efficient use can impact the gross domestic product (GDP) of regions by up to six percent.

Better adoption of policies needed

Findings suggest that to accomplish this, governments need to adopt better policies supporting water resource management.

Better policies will allow for enhanced allocation of water resources and increased efficiency. Investments in suitable infrastructure are also critical to ensuring the availability of water, access to it, and its security. And the adoption of incentives would also help improve efficiency and conservation, improving water availability and help steady its supply.

Kimberly Arsenault Kimberly Arsenault serves as an intern at the Cleveland/Bradley County Emergency Management Agency where she works on plan revisions and special projects. Previously, Kimberly spent 15 years in commercial and business aviation. Her positions included station manager at the former Midwest Express Airlines, as well as corporate flight attendant, inflight manager, and charter flight coordinator. Kimberly currently holds a master's degree in emergency and disaster management from American Public University.