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‘Potential long-term changes’ to water supply from extreme weather

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A new study has found that water quality is compromised by a combination of extreme weather-related events, driven by climate change.

Academics at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) found that extreme weather has the potential to change water quality in the long-term, with bushfires and cyclones at the top of the list.

Their study says that such events can offload chemical or microbial contaminants, such as from bushfires, which can cause ash and phosphorus to enter water sources.

It also suggests that issues such as water contamination can drive up the cost of utilising water, with more investment needed in infrastructure.

“Because extreme events can theoretically happen at any time, and may occur with greater intensity and frequency in the future, utilities without appropriate contingency plans and future infrastructure planning will be less able to quickly recover from, adapt to, and plan for future weather-related impacts”, the report reads.

Dr Stuart Khan of the UNSW school of civil and environmental engineering, who led the study, told Guardian Australia, “We have always had extreme weather events, that’s nothing new, but we are already seeing the impact of them and it’s broadly accepted these instances will increase.”

He added, “The water supply isn’t secure or cordoned off – we draw water from the environment and that water is subject to a number of different things”.

There is a growing consensus that climate change is behind extreme weather conditions. Earlier this month, British prime minister David Cameron said he “very much [suspected]” a link between climate change and the Christmas and new year floods, although the Met Office said this was not 100% certain.

Further reading:

MPs: energy firms showing ‘utter complacency’ over Christmas powercuts

Government admits ‘inconsistencies’ in flood defence spending

Government needs to ‘work with nature’ on flood risk

Flood link with climate change not 100% certain, says Met office 

Questions over accuracy of government’s flood defence spending

 

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