Water scarcity will be amplified 40 percent by climate change, study says.
Changes in rainfall and evaporation will put pressure on water resources
Although water scarcity is already a problem in many countries today due to factors like population growth, the effects of global warming could put millions more people at risk of absolute water scarcity, according to a new study from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
The study, published Monday in a special issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that water resources will be affected by changes in rainfall and evaporation due to climate change, putting 40 percent more people at risk of absolute water scarcity.
"We conclude that the combination of unmitigated climate change and further population growth will expose a significant fraction of the world population to chronic or absolute water scarcity," the study says.
Now, between one and two people out of 100 live in countries with absolute water scarcity, which is defined as less than 500 cubic meters of water available per year and per person, according to the study. On average, each person consumes about 1,200 cubic meters of water each year. But population growth combined with the effects of global warming could bring the ratio of people living in countries with absolute water scarcity up to about 10 in 100 people.
"The quantities that most humans need for drinking and sanitation are relatively small, and the fact that these basic needs are not satisfied for many people today is primarily a matter of access to, and quality of, available water resources," the study says.
Unless greenhouse gas emissions get cut soon, this situation could become reality “within the next few decades,” Jacob Schewe, the study’s lead author, said in a statement.
But because climate change does not have the same effect across or even within certain countries, some areas will be hit harder than others. The Mediterranean, the Middle East, the southern United States and southern China, for example, could see a “pronounced decrease of available water,” while southern India, western China, and parts of eastern Africa could see an increase.
To account for the uncertainty of climate change – the magnitude of its effects and water scarcity changes at a regional level – the researchers used 11 hydrological models, produced by five different global climate models. The results in the study represent the multiple-model average.
"The purpose is to explore the associated uncertainties and to synthesize the current state of knowledge about the impact of climate change on renewable water resources at the global scale," the study says.
While the average level of water scarcity resulting from population change alone is amplified by 40 percent with climate change, some models suggested the amplification could be as high as 100 percent.
"This dwindling per-capita water availability is likely to pose major challenges for societies to adapt their water use and management," the study says.
To address concerns towards issues related to building space, fuel costs, comfort, reliability, simplicity of operation more especially environmental concerns, the biomass boiler system was developed by Hurst representative Gregory W. Smith of Global Energy Solutions Inc. under the direction of E. Dane Ash, project manager for Tyonek-Alcan Pacific LLC.
A site that could help giving a solution to the problem is the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center in Ketchikan. The site that provides information to more than a million visitors each year is also the site where a pilot biomass system is now coming to life. A two oil-fired boilers serving the 250,000-sq-ft center were replaced with a highly efficient system fueled by local wood was manufactured by Hurst Boiler & welding Company Inc.Another good thing about the project is that the hot-water boiler was custom-designed to fit within very limited indoor space.
Many benefits come along with the use of this biomass boiler, the country saved as much as two-thirds of the fuel costs. There is almost no residual ash when densified pucks are used. But, tree clippings from the Ketchikan walking trails will be ground and fed into the boiler, eliminating the need for transport to a landfill, burning, and other methods of disposal. The system easily can be replicated for heat or heat/power generation up to 20,000 kw.
The boiler system was designed to highlight how biomass can reduce or eliminate the use of fossil fuels. Visitors can see the boiler operate through specially designed windows. In the hall just outside of the boiler room, the noise level and ambient temperature is consistent with the rest of the building.
Southeast Alaska Discovery Center in Ketchikan, which provides information to more than a million visitors each year, is the site of a pilot biomass boiler system now coming to life. Two oil-fired boilers serving the 250,000-sq-ft center were replaced with a highly efficient system fueled by local wood. Manufactured by Hurst Boiler & Welding Company Inc., the hot-water boiler was custom-designed to fit within very limited indoor space.