The impact of undesired climate change is manifested in ever-decreasing supplies of drinking water, water for irrigating agricultural land and rising sea levels. Contaminated water is the cause of 80 percent of diseases and deaths. It kills a child every 8 seconds.
According to UN forecasts, by 2032 sixty percent of the world’s population will live in regions with insufficient water resources (Europarl, 2022).
Climate change has a significant impact on the water cycle, but the effects differ in different regions of Europe and show seasonal variability. Uncertainties remain in the projections of future impacts. Rising temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns will affect all types of water bodies, such as rivers, lakes and wetlands, as well as groundwater, coastal waters and oceans. Models predict more frequent and severe hydrological extremes and significant, slowly occurring changes in water availability, quality and seasonality, as well as sea level rise.
In recent decades, there has been much research and discussion on climate adaptation. The European Union’s adaptation strategy has encouraged the integration of adaptation in different areas, the acquisition and exchange of knowledge, and supported national adaptation strategies. We also have the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and the Floods Directive (FD). EU climate legislation requires Member States to develop and implement adaptation strategies to build climate resilience.
Climate-resilient water management also offers opportunities to create co-benefits for the economy, ecosystems and society at large, including climate change mitigation. Nature-based solutions have proven to be the most effective. Restoring wetlands for flood protection and water storage, for example, can also support biodiversity and increase quality of life. Restoration and conservation of wetlands, especially peatlands and bogs, preserves their function as carbon sinks. We can also do a lot by reducing consumption and increasing water reuse.
Examples of this are over-abstraction of water combined with continuous pollution and rising temperature, which has already led to the collapse of some freshwater ecosystems in the EU and many groundwater resources have already become depleted or unusable due to high nutrient or salt content. Degraded ecosystems may cease to provide their water storage and flood containment services, and degraded water resources may threaten water supply systems (EU VOICES: Vpliv ponednebnih sprememb na vodne sisteme , 2022).