How Does Climate Change Relate to a Possible Water Crisis?
A warming climate will change the distribution of water mainly due to greater evaporation rates, which is already observed around the world and more information can be found here. The Lethbridge area is likely to be affected by an increase in summer drought severity. Warmer temperatures are decreasing the amount of spring snowpack (as a result of more winter precipitation falling as rain rather than snow in the nearby mountains), resulting in a decline in summer (growing season) available water.
Compounding this impact on water quantity is the fact that water quality is deteriorating. This results in less available drinking water or increases the amount of energy/money needed to treat it. Industrial (including oil and gas exploration), home, and especially agricultural pollution stemming from pesticides and manure are culprits in this area. More information can be accessed through WISE.
What can be done locally?
Canadians are wasteful water users, and rank among the worst of industrialized countries according to this study. We do not value water appropriately, exemplified by the fact that tap water costs just $0.50/cubic metre in Lethbridge. This does not reflect the financial resources needed to treat and distribute it. Some think that water privatization can solve this, while others suggest local governments should take the lead in increasing use efficiency (through technology) and allocating water to priority uses. Many factors must be considered to better manage our water, and here are a few in a nutshell.
To better manage water in the Lethbridge area, the entire needs (industrial, municipal, agricultural, environmental, and recreational) of the Oldman River basin will have to be considered. The Oldman Watershed Council has a mandate to ensure the sustainable management of our local water supply, by bringing the various stakeholders together to discuss and act on the points raised herein. Public participation in this watershed stewardship group is highly encouraged.