Climate change threatens to wipe out our water resources

climate change threatens our water resources

As we have discussed in previous articles, climate change increases the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as droughts. Long and intense droughts threaten to deplete our water reserves and this puts us in danger.

Both for industrial use, such as agriculture and for human consumption and supply, water is too important and valuable a resource. However, the impacts of climate change in the Spanish basins may be greater than those contemplated in the Hydrological Plans, according to a study carried out by researchers from the Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV) belonging to the Institute of Water and Environment Engineering (IIAMA).

How does climate change affect water resources?

Spain's water resources are running out

When droughts reduce annual rainfall, water resources diminish after their use and consumption. In addition, to this we have to add that the increase in temperatures throughout the year increases the amount of dammed water that evaporates and is no longer useful. These aspects are not entirely well considered in many hydrological planning in Spain.

Research on the impacts of climate change on hydrological plans has been developed by Patricia Marcos and has been published in the scientific journal Ingeniería del Agua. This research emphasizes the limitations of the approach given in Spain to be able to integrate all the effects of climate change within hydrological planning.

In the research they draw conclusions that show that hydrological management in Spain only takes into account the reduction of water inputs from rainfall and does not consider spatial variability within the same hydrological demarcation. That is to say, the impacts of climate change do not understand hydrological demarcations created by humans, but affect an entire extension equally. A hydrological plan for an autonomous community may consider some aspects and another plan contemplates others, but, nevertheless, climate change exerts the impacts equally.

Spanish water resources in danger

drought in reservoirs

The study has evaluated the impact of climate change on the water resources of the Júcar river exploitation system, taking into account the latest climate change scenarios and comparing the results of three conceptual hydrological models. It has also been observed how water resources have been reduced in the short and medium term and how they will be further reduced. Water resources are expected to they will decrease by 12%, but the research estimates a reduction of 20-21% in the short term and 29-36% in the medium term.

This reduction in water resources is not contemplated in the drought plans of the autonomous communities. In fact, it has been found that in recent years there has already been a reduction similar to that applied in the Plan. In addition, the analysis has determined a high uncertainty regarding the possible percentage of reduction of the resource, derived from climate models and, to a lesser extent, from hydrological models.

The determination of the percentage of reduction in water resources is not only based on impacts of climate change or climate projections, but also on other elements, such as temperature, wind regime, increase in demand and population, agricultural needs, and other items. That is why the research proposes to carry out planning that is oriented not only to determine the reduction and percentage of water resources, but rather to be able to analyze the resilience (ability to adapt and bear loads) that stored water has in the face of stress situations. In this way, it is possible to identify which areas are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and to propose adaptation measures.

As you can see, climate change is threatening our water reserves. Water is a too precious and necessary commodity that we must safeguard.

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