Climate change is already altering the patterns of our natural hydrologic cycle, creating uncertainty when it comes to the quality and quantity of water sources—forcing utilities to rethink practices that have traditionally been effective and seek solutions for more unpredictable conditions. While it is clear that widespread shifts in weather patterns will continue in the foreseeable future, the rate and intensity are not fully known. Even seemingly slight temperature increases can set off a chain of negative effects, such as lower dissolved oxygen levels, higher contaminant loads, reduced stream flows, altered runoff timing, widespread algal blooms, and increased saltwater intrusion.
Adding to this challenge is the increased frequency of extreme weather, also linked to climate change. From drought to storms to tidal surges, these events can have devastating effects on critical water infrastructure. Because lack of access to clean, safe water is the single biggest threat to human health and economic livelihood, water service providers must be prepared to address these unstable weather conditions.