The effects of climate change on water resources

By Matthew Bird

Organisations operating in the water industry are becoming increasingly aware of the effects of climate change on water resources. We’re already seeing extreme weather events like the 2020 Australian bushfires, the 2011 to 2017 California droughts and increasing heatwave temperatures in the UK. Water resources are a critical part of the ecosystem. Rising sea levels, shrinking fresh water supplies, extreme precipitation, and flooding as a result of climate change endanger the water resources that the world relies upon.

Currently, more than two billion people are living in ‘water stress’ environments where water availability or sanitation is scarce, and this is only set to get worse with the current status of global warming. Paul Dickinson, CEO of the CDP Water Disclosure Project, states:

“Much of the impact of climate change will be felt through changing patterns of water availability, with shrinking glaciers and changing patterns of precipitation increasing the likelihood of drought and flood.  If climate change is the shark, then water is its teeth and it is an issue on which businesses need far greater levels of awareness and understanding.” [1]

Companies like California Water call for the need to adopt digital technologies for sustainable water management in order to meet the challenges faced by climate change and revamp outdated infrastructure to ensure that access to decent water supply does not fall short.

How this impacts the water industry

These events will impact the industry in several ways. Changes to rainfall and increasing temperatures and dryness could lead to a shortage of supply. Heavy rain and changes to fresh water will require additional treatment, and also carry the risk of damage to drainage systems.[2]

Adapting to more frequent extreme weather events such as heavy rain, heatwaves, floods and droughts is going to be necessary for water management organisations, alongside reviewing older infrastructure and moving to more robust solutions.

An influential research paper discussed the concept of stationarity, the idea that the variables in natural resources do not change over time, stating: ‘The stationarity assumption has long been compromised by human disturbances in river basins. stationarity is dead and should no longer serve as a central, default assumption in water-resource risk assessment and planning. Finding a suitable successor is crucial for human adaptation to changing climate.” [3]

Prioritising safety standards

With all the climate change effects on water and the concerns that it brings, it’s important not to fall short on safety and environmental standards which are crucial in providing safe, clean water. Common struggles with water companies include:

  • Onsite incident management
  • Meeting auditing standards
  • Document and policy control

These are all essential components in complying with key standards like:

  • ISO 9001- Quality Management System
  • ISO 24510- Drinking water and wastewater activities
  • ISO 26722- Water treatment equipment
  • ISO 45001- Occupational health and safety

Getting the basics right allows you to work more efficiently, managing your reporting and compliance activities in a way that’s simple to evidence to an auditor. For example, having a Quality Management System for QHSE gives you a centralised location to manage documents, report incidents, all while recording an audit trail.

Having a QHSE system that’s compliant with ISO 9001 means that you've documented your processes and are actively maintaining and improving them. This, in turn, makes it easier to extend your processes to incorporate the requirements of ISO 24510 and ISO 26722 as you’ve already got the infrastructure in place to manage your documents and assure compliance.

How our quality management software can help

Q-Pulse is our quality management software solution. It allows you to manage documents, communicate policy changes, report incidents and assure compliance from one centralised location. Having this robust system in place streamlines key safety concerns, saving time spent on manual processes and allowing you to focus on addressing the impact of climate change on water resources.

Request a demo to find out more about how Q-Pulse can help you deal with the effects of climate change on water resources and work more efficiently.

 

 

[1] Water Footprint Calculator, The Impact of Climate Change on Water Resources: https://www.watercalculator.org/footprint/climate-change-water-resources/

[2] Ofwat, Climate Change: https://www.ofwat.gov.uk/regulated-companies/resilience-2/climate-change/

[3] Science Magazine, Stationarity Is Dead: Whither Water Management?: https://www.gfdl.noaa.gov/bibliography/related_files/pcm0801.pdf

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