Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Climate change impact - water shortages

One of the things that many of us in Canada take for granted is the availability of water - for drinking, agriculture and many other uses. With 250,000 lakes in Ontario alone, it's hard to imagine shortages (although there are already many communities, particularly First Nations in the north which do not have safe, clean drinking water).

As of the beginning of the milennium worldwide, over one billion people did not have "sufficient access to clean water". This problem is expected to worsen dramatically as a result of climate change.

Experts: Half World Faces Water Shortage by 2080

Wong Poh Poh, a professor at the National University of Singapore, told a regional conference that global warming was disrupting water flow patterns and increasing the severity of floods, droughts and storms _ all of which reduce the availability of drinking water.

Wong said the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that as many as 2 billion people won't have sufficient access to clean water by 2050. That figure is expected to rise to 3.2 billion by 2080 _ nearly tripling the number who now do without it.

Reduced access to clean water _ which refers to water that can be used for drinking, bathing or cooking _ forces many villagers in poor countries to walk miles to reach supplies. Others, including those living in urban shanties, suffer from diseases caused by drinking from unclean sources.
So, are there solutions? If so, what are they?
Wong and others at the conference called on governments to embrace the Kyoto Protocol climate treaty to fight global warming and protect water resources, as a short-term solution.

But eventually governments must build infrastructure to protect coastal areas, improve management of water basins and adopt new technologies to enhance availability and reliability of water resources, Wong said.

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