Water

Impacts

  • Supply and Demand: Changes in temperature and precipitation will influence evaporation and runoff, and the amount of water stored in glaciers, lakes, wetlands and groundwater. This results in changes in the quantity and quality of water available for human use, and impacts ecosystems and habitat.  It also can affect the water resources we have available for tourism and recreation, freshwater fisheries, hydroelectric power generation, municipal water supplies and agriculture.
  • Lower Water Tables: Although we expect to see more precipitation as a result of climate change, there may be an even higher rate of evaporation due to warmer temperatures resulting in an overall decline in water levels. A decline in surface water can also translate into poor drinking water quality as ponds and rivers are exposed to contamination, causing increased cloudiness in treatment plants and parasite risk (including E. coli). In coastal communities, if the water table falls as the sea level rises wells may be vulnerable to seawater contamination. This will eventually make the well water undrinkable. Low lying areas near the Bay of Fundy, like Wolfville, are vulnerable to groundwater contamination from the sea; this risk is increased with rising demand for fresh water from both agriculture and new housing.
  • Salt-water Intrusion: In coastal communities, if the water table falls as the sea level rises water wells may be vulnerable to seawater intrusion, which is the process of seawater moving inland into aquifers. This can make well water become salty, and may eventually make it undrinkable. Low lying areas near the coast, like Wolfville, are more vulnerable to seawater intrusion.  This risk is increased with rising demand for fresh water from both agriculture and increasing population.
  • Flooding: Climate change also increases the risk of floods.  This risk is obvious in the summer – as the frequency of extreme weather events such as hurricanes, storms, and extreme rainfall is expected to rise.  Less obvious are the effects in winter: as cold periods alternate with warm periods, the potential for rainfall on top of snow increases, which prevents water from being reabsorbed into the ground. This, again, may result in flooding.  Wetlands are an important regulator of water supply to streams, during both summer droughts and floods; climate change will likely reduce wetlands' overall water supply and effectiveness.

Adaptation

  • Preserve: Preserving wetlands to manage water runoff and retention and buffer against sea-level rise and storm surge along the coast.
  • Stewardship: Improving water conservation and efficiency measures to preserve valuable water supplies.  Follow well established best practices in water resource management.
  • Management: Ensuring water management plans have mitigation strategies in place to guard again water shortages and competition between water users.
  • Protection: Protecting groundwater resources from seawater intrusion by ensuring water wells are set back far enough from the ocean and placing appropriate limits on large groundwater withdrawals near the coast.