With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation - Isaiah 12:3

Like everything on the planet, our lakes, rivers, streams, oceans and the water cycle itself are heavily impacted by climate change. The ways in which water is affected also serve as a humbling reminder of how interconnected everything is on this life-giving organism we call Earth. As the atmosphere heats up causing warmer waters, heavier rainfalls in some areas and droughts in others, the effects of climate change are exacerbated, thus continuing the harmful cycle.

The melting glaciers caused by the greenhouse effect cause oceans to rise and existing coastlines to disappear. In some cases, islands may disappear.

Climate scientists predict that the shift in weather patterns will lead to more floods since more water will fall than vegetation and soil can absorb. The remaining water runs off into nearby waterways, picking up contaminants like fertilizer on the way. Excess runoff eventually travels to larger bodies of water such as lakes, estuaries, and the ocean, polluting water supply and limiting water access for humans and ecosystems.

When fertilizers wash farms and fields into lakes and the ocean, they promote the rapid growth of algae. The resulting algal blooms clog coasts and waterways with clouds of green, blue-green, red, or brown algae. The blooms block sunlight from reaching underwater life, diminishing oxygen levels within the water. Toxins from the blooms can kill off fish and other aquatic animals, make people sick and even kill them. These toxins are especially dangerous because they can survive purification processes, making tap water unfit to consume. Algal blooms also impact industries that rely on the water for business, and often cause local waterfronts to shut down during blooms. As the climate warms, harmful algal blooms happen more often and become more severe.

Many communities will see their water supplies shrink as temperatures rise and precipitation patterns shift. A rise in severe storms will degrade water quality and increase the risk of catastrophic floods. Changes in the timing and location of precipitation combined with rising levels of water pollution will strain ecosystems and threaten the survival of many fish and wildlife species. These shifts will have dramatic impacts on communities, threatening public health, weakening economies and decreasing the quality of life in many places.

Suggestions for Action

1. Pursue simple water-saving actions:

  • Go Native: Use native plants in your landscape. They look great, and do not need water or fertilizer. Also choose grass varieties for your lawn that are adapted for your region's climate, reducing the need for extensive watering, chemical applications or frequent lawn cutting.
  • Reduce the use of chemicals around your home and yard, and make sure to dispose of them properly – do not dump them on the ground!
  • Manage waste: Properly dispose of potentially toxic substances like unused chemicals, pharmaceuticals, paint, motor oil, and other substances. Many communities hold household hazardous waste collections or sites; contact your local health department to find one near you.
  • Do not let it run: Shut off the water when you brush your teeth or shaving, and do not let it run while waiting for it to get cold. Keep a pitcher of cold water in the fridge instead.
  • Fix the Drip: Check all the faucets, fixtures, toilets, and taps in your home for leaks and fix them right away, or install water conserving models.
  • Wash Smarter: Limit yourself to just a five-minute shower and challenge your family members to do the same! Also, make sure to only run full loads in the dish and clothes washer.
  • Water Wisely: Water the lawn and plants during the coolest parts of the day and only when they truly need it. Make sure you, your family, and your neighbors obey any watering restrictions during dry periods.
  • Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle: Reduce the amount of "stuff" you use and reuse what you can. Recycle paper, plastic, cardboard, glass, aluminum, and other materials.
  • Natural Alternatives: Use all natural/nontoxic household cleaners whenever possible. Materials such as lemon juice, baking soda, and vinegar make great cleaning products, are inexpensive, and environmentally friendly.
  • Learn and Do More! Get involved in water education! Learn more about groundwater and share your knowledge with others.

2. Build a more resilient infrastructure

The consequences of shifting weather patterns will depend in large part upon choices that communities have made in the past and are making now. Cities that do not take steps to safeguard their water supply could see the tap run dry.

Those that fail to address ageing infrastructure will experience greater increases in stormwater runoff and sewer overflows.

Most importantly, communities that have done the greatest damage to their natural infrastructure – wetlands, forests, streams and rivers – will have fewer defenses to protect them against a changing climate. Decisions related to land use planning, flood protection, water infrastructure and many other facets of community life have a profound impact on a community’s vulnerability in a warming world.

3. Eliminate Pollution

Many steps are being taken to keep contaminants from getting into our groundwater supplies. Manufacturers are using fewer toxic raw materials. Consumers have switched to phosphate-free detergents and other less polluting household products. Regulations contained in the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Acts have also been a big part of the protection of drinking water supplies.

4. Conserve Groundwater

Reduce the amount of waste you generate and the water you consume whenever possible.

Groundwater is available in limited quantities, and nothing works without it. Since groundwater is an important and vital resource for all people, it is important to protect it. Conserving the quantity of groundwater is essential. By simply reducing the amount of water that we use, our water supply will last longer.

It takes lots of energy to pump, treat, and heat water, so saving water reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Saving water around the home is simple. Three percent of the nation's energy is used to pump and treat water, so conserving water conserves energy that reduces greenhouse gas pollution.

5. Protect Groundwater

Communities must be aware that large international corporations may be interested in your groundwater for selling bottled drinks. Your community may have to take action to ensure that not too much water is taken.

More information

Water and climate change:

Water and the global climate crisis: 10 things you should know

How climate change impacts water access:

Building climate change resilience through water management and ecosystems:

Water availability:

Are we running out of water?

Canada’s myth of water abundance: