Water Cycle and Climate Change


Water Cycle and Climate Change

The climate change phenomenon has been acknowledged by the scientific and engineering societies around the world. Impacts of this change on the environment are already being experienced and are only likely to increase if no prompt action taken. As part of this process our climate becomes drier and warmer with less rainfall in the catchments and reduced runoff reaching streams, rivers with fewer opportunities for the recharge of groundwater. Our Water Cycle system has been historically reliant on climate-dependent sources of water found in reservoirs, rivers, lakes and groundwater for the collection, storage, treatment, delivery and supply of water, and as such are affected by the impacts of climate change.

There are also other mounting pressures on water resources such as population growth and changing economic conditions. If we do not adequately prepare for the effects of the climate change, the likely consequences will be:

  • fall in water available for the environment, community and businesses
  • rising prices for water services
  • increased need for expensive infrastructure to support essential water and wastewater services
  • introduction of restrictions on the water for recreation and private gardens
  • increased stormwater flows causing drainage being overwhelmed, increasing flood damage and sewer spills
  • more peaks in water demand during heatwaves that could exceed the capacity of available water

Sustainable water management offers multiple opportunities to address the effects of the population increase and climate change onto the Water Cycle such as:

  • conversion of wastewater sludge to energy
  • effluent reuse
  • sewer mining
  • industrial recycling
  • adaptation of nature-based treatment solutions like wetlands and biofiltration

Apart from the reduction in demand for high quality drinking these solutions will provide many environmental and social benefits benefit like reduced flooding, improved waterways water quality and reduction in the heat island effect.

Adaptation Strategy

To best address these challenges, we need to concentrate on integrating climate change adaptation across all aspects of the Water Cycle system.

  • Find new ways to diversify and augment water supplies, including by enabling greater use of stormwater and recycled water.
  • Explore co-investment opportunities to deliver water infrastructure with the community, private investors and government partners.
  • Build technical knowledge and risk assessment capabilities to support water infrastructure planning, design and investment decisions.
  • Identify opportunities for resource sharing.
  • Secure greater Traditional Owner participation in water cycle adaptation.
  • Develop improved water efficiency standards for homes and review existing building and plumbing requirements for rainwater tanks and water efficiency.
  • Promote and encourage innovation to reduce water-related emissions across households and businesses, build climate resilience and transition to a circular economy, including by trialling measures to reduce water-related energy use.

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