Climate change, water security, and development

Much of the discussion and headlines around climate change focuses on rising global temperature and, though this is the driving factor, it is a longer-term and more abstract trend. One of the more noticeable impacts that has been and will continue to be seen is rainfall; how much will fall, where, and when.

As temperatures rise, evaporation will increase, and the surface drying will increase the intensity and duration of droughts. The warmer air will be able to hold more water, and rainfall will increase by around 7% for every 1°C warming, leading to more intense rainfall events when they do occur. Speaking with staff and communities in sub-Saharan Africa, this is already being seen and the once predictable rainfall patterns can no longer be relied upon. Periods of prolonged drought can be followed by unprecedented rainfall causing landslides and structural damage as was seen in Uganda and Kenya in 2016.

According to a study in Nature, changing land use and controls over water sources, coupled with the impact from climate change, have already altered the water supply and availability over the past 15 years. Water as a resource is shared globally and the abstraction and damming of rivers before they cross geographic boundaries has been the cause of international tensions which may be a significant cause of conflict in the 21st Century.

Rainfall is vital for most of the rural population in sub-Saharan Africa. The majority engage in subsistence agriculture for their livelihood and obtain freshwater for domestic purposes from surface water or groundwater aquifers, recharged by rainfall and naturally purified as the water percolates through the ground.

 

Eritrea Boreholes (10)

Children collecting water from a nearby handpump in Eritrea

 

Having a close, reliable, affordable, and safe water source is invaluable to the well-being of a family or a community and improving access to groundwater is thought to have positive impacts on some of the key pillars of human development including health, education, livelihoods, and food security. Borehole hand pumps are a critical part of the water infrastructure in rural communities and will be ever more so with uncertain rainfall patterns but they often suffer from a lack of financial and technical support. CO2balance will continue to work together with partners to maintain this infrastructure and unlock the potential that safe groundwater brings.

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