Water Quality

The occurrence of higher water temperatures, as well as changing in the timing, intensity, and duration of rainfall can drastically affect water quality. When water temperatures rise, dissolved oxygen levels are reduced, which can have a significant effect on sea life. Additionally, in areas where streamflow and lake levels drop, there will be far less dilution of pollutants. Increased frequency and intensity of precipitation can also produce more sedimentation and pollution.

Climate change in most regions will likely increase the probability and severity of floods, mostly as a result of more abundant and more intense rainfall. Rising temperatures are expected to heighten the climate’s hydrologic cycle, and snowpacks are expected to be melted much more rapidly. Flooding can dramatically affect the quality of water, because large amounts of water can effectively transport several contaminants into bodies of water as well as bog down storm and drainage systems. Increased temperatures in the summer and earlier snowmelt can contribute a great deal to the probability of a drought. Not only is the risk increased, but the odds of the drought being severe are also increased. It’s important to note that due to climate change, the risks of a drought as well as the chances of a flood can increase in the same region.

The rising sea levels may also potentially adversely affect freshwater quality by increasing the levels of saline of coastal bays and rivers, thereby causing a saltwater intrusion, which is fresh ground water found in coastal regions being invaded by saline water.

The repercussions of altered water supply quality are many. Higher temperatures and changes to the supply and quality could potentially affect the access and use of recreational rivers and lakes. The normal operations of commercial freshwater fisheries would also be jeopardized. Certain fish species may even find the rising temperatures to be too warm and proceed to migrate up north, causing a disturbance to the natural ecosystem.