Climate change affects how much water we have, and where it is. More than half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas by 2050. [Source] Link opens a new window
Extreme weather can cost you. Floods cause more than US $40 billion in damage worldwide annually. [Source] Link opens a new window
The world is getting warmer, and so is our home. Canada’s rate of warming is about twice the global rate – a 2°C increase globally means a 3-4°C increase for Canada. The Arctic is warming even faster. [Source] Link opens a new window
A Global Shift
What happens when there is suddenly too much water, or not enough? Cities and towns are usually built where the water supply can support a population and its needs – and yet, human activities are contributing to a dangerous shift that is impacting freshwater health. As the climate changes, we’re faced with extreme weather, including severe floods and prolonged droughts.
Climate change poses a threat to water quality, its availability, and our ability to sustain its health. Here are some of the top climate-related challenges for freshwater.
Rising temperatures. Our planet has never been hotter. Canada's rate of warming is about twice the global rate, and the Arctic is warming even faster. At the same time that permafrost and glaciers are melting more rapidly, there are also increasingly shorter seasons for ice and snow to build up. All of these changes impact our freshwater supply.
Furthermore, as things heat up in freshwater ecosystems, aquatic species have to adapt – if they can’t, their populations may be at risk. Furthermore, warmer temperatures can also intensify the impacts of pollution or contamination. For example, when an excess of nutrients (pollution) enters our waterways, it fuels algae growth. Algae grow even more rapidly in warmer waters, sometimes developing into a harmful bloom that depletes freshwater oxygen supplies, creating “dead zones” that kill fish and other aquatic species.
Severe flooding. Floods are common and they are part of a natural cycle. However, due to the changing climate, the world is seeing new rainfall patterns, more extreme storms, faster snow melt, and rising water levels – all of which contribute to more frequent and more severe flooding events. With these floods, there are serious potential impacts for humans, including (but not limited to) loss of life and property. At the same time, our freshwater quality and ecosystems are suffering. For example, as floodwaters recede into lakes, rivers, and streams, they introduce contaminated runoff (or pollution) from cities, farms, and industrial sites.
Prolonged drought. Drought also poses a huge threat for human life – without water, we cannot survive. During a drought, freshwater sources can disappear completely, sometimes never returning. Others suffer from decreased quality. Water levels drop. The strong flows that ensure a healthy level of oxygen for aquatic species slow down. Precipitation patterns change. Ecosystems rush to adapt.
Protecting Against Flood Risk
Flooding is the most frequent and most damaging natural disaster in North America. With this in mind, AquaHacking Challenge team Geosapiens developed E-NUNDATION, a web-based platform that allows people to have an improved understanding of flood risks at the property level so they can more effectively manage them.
We want to help our society be more resilient to flood risk. Through our products and services, we’re able to help citizens be better prepared, we can assist municipalities in managing risk more effectively, and we can enable insurers to offer more affordable and reliable flood insurance products.