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How Does Climate Change Impact Drinking Water?

Emily Driehaus @ Thursday, August 19, 2021 at 2:57 pm -0400

Emily Driehaus | Science Communication Intern

The newest IPCC report provided a look into how climate change has altered global temperatures and weather patterns over the past few decades. The International Panel on Climate Change publishes a "state of climate change" every few years that provides update on how today’s emissions and activities will affect weather patterns in the future, and the effects these changes will have on our lives. The report highlighted how climate change has and will continue to impact the accessibility of clean drinking water.

Why This IPCC Report is Different From Previous Years:

The recent IPCC findings are notable because scientists have determined that it is “unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land.” The term “unequivocal” is not used lightly in this instance, as scientists do not use absolutes unless the evidence is unquestionable. 

Scientists also used paleoclimate data to provide more context for our current period of warming. Our planet goes through glacial and interglacial periods, where a glacial event is followed by a period of time where the climate is warmer. We are currently in an interglacial period after the last glacial period ended about 11,000 years ago. The last interglacial period before our current interglacial occurred about 125,000 years ago. The IPCC report found that “the last decade was more likely than not warmer than any multi-centennial period after the Last Interglacial.” To put this in perspective, Homo sapiens were still mostly living on the African continent 125,000 years ago. The past decade has likely been warmer than any multi-centennial period since Homo sapiens migrated out of Africa and dispersed across the globe. 

The IPCC report also included new advances in a branch of climate science known as attribution science. Scientists can now attribute specific weather events to human-induced climate change. In other words, the frequency of extreme weather events, like droughts and hurricanes, is a direct result of human-driven climate change. 

The authors of the report included a glimpse of what the future might look like under five different climate scenarios with greenhouse gas emissions ranging from “very low” levels to “very high” levels. Some effects of climate change are now unavoidable and are present in all scenarios, but the intensity of these events is increased as greenhouse gas emissions climb. For example, global surface temperatures will continue to increase in all the presented scenarios, but the degree of warming increases with each climate scenario. Global warming of 2° Celsius is very likely to occur under the “very high” emissions scenario, but is extremely unlikely to be exceeded under the “very low” emissions scenario. These scenarios provide important perspectives on what the future of our planet could look like under different emissions scenarios, as changes in weather patterns will become more extreme with each increment of warming.

What Does All This Have To Do With Drinking Water?

Extreme weather events already have an impact on our drinking water. Droughts reduce the amount of drinking water available due to the lack of precipitation to replace water supplies. Water contamination is also more likely to occur in areas with drought conditions. Hurricanes and tropical storms can also contaminate drinking water supplies with floodwater and leave communities without clean drinking water for long periods of time. Even cold weather events can affect access to clean drinking water, especially in areas that are not equipped with the infrastructure to deal with extremely cold temperatures. For example, the recent round of winter storms that brought freezing temperatures to Texas limited access to drinking water due to frozen pipes, power outages, and boil water advisories.

As global temperatures increase, these extreme weather events will increase not only in frequency but in intensity as well. Drinking water supplies will be threatened by these events more often and the intensity of these events risks damaging water infrastructure that was not built to withstand the extreme weather conditions created by climate change. 

The IPCC report also included specifics on how global warming will directly impact the global water cycle. Like weather patterns, the rise of global temperatures will intensify the water cycle, making wet seasons wetter and dry seasons drier. This will have direct implications for areas of the world that depend on seasonal precipitation. Intensified dry seasons will impact agriculture and those who depend on rainy seasons to water their crops. Intensified wet seasons bring the risk of flooding that could potentially damage communities and infrastructure. These intensified seasons will also bring problems with drinking water quality, either due to lack of rainfall to replenish water supplies or too much precipitation that contaminates drinking water supplies with dirty floodwater.

How Can We Stop The Worst From Happening?

It is easy to fall into a downward spiral of negative thinking after reading about how our planet is being irreversibly damaged. However, this report makes it clear that there is still time to change course. While it is too late to stop some warming from occurring, there is still time to cut greenhouse gas emissions and prevent the worst from happening. Now is the time to call on world leaders and governments to implement policies that will lower emissions and protect future generations and ensure a livable planet with access to clean drinking water for all. 

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Superfund: Spencer, Indiana

Analies Dyjak @ Thursday, June 14, 2018 at 3:14 pm -0400

Analies Dyjak  |  Policy Nerd

This week, Hydroviv is highlighting the six new National Priorities List (NPL) sites under the EPA Superfund program. Superfund sites are home to high levels of hazardous soil and groundwater contamination from years of improper disposal techniques. If you’d like to learn more about the ins and out of Superfund, check out our recap HERE. The next Superfund site that we’ll be discussing is located in Spencer, Indiana. 

Spencer, Indiana is home to another newly designated Superfund site. The municipal well field is a contaminated chlorinated solvent plume, with levels exceeding federal standards for Tetrachloroethylene or PCE. In a 2012 carcinogenicity assessment, EPA set a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 5 parts per billion for drinking water. Long term exposure of PCE can cause adverse effects to the liver, kidneys and central nervous system. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management has yet to identify a responsible party for the contamination, but they have recognized 9 active and closed facilities that could be major contributors.

If you live near a Superfund site and are concerned about your water, drop us an email at hello@hydroviv.com or visit hydroviv.com and use our live chat feature. Hydroviv is staffed with scientists and policy experts that can help you make sense of your water and find an effective filter, even if it isn’t one we sell.

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Superfund: San Antonio

Superfund: Spring Park, Minnesota

Analies Dyjak @ Thursday, June 14, 2018 at 3:39 pm -0400

Analies Dyjak  |  Policy Nerd

This week, Hydroviv is highlighting the six new National Priorities List (NPL) sites under the EPA Superfund program. Superfund sites are home to high levels of hazardous soil and groundwater contamination from years of improper disposal techniques. If you’d like to learn more about the ins and out of Superfund, check out our recap HERE. The next Superfund site that we’ll be discussing is located in Spring Park, Minnesota. 

Spring Park, Minnesota is home to one of the six newly designated Superfund sites. The town’s municipal well field is contaminated with several industrial solvents such as trichloroethylene (TCE), 1,2-dichloroethylene (DCE) and vinyl chloride. There are 1,673 residents in Spring Park, all of which are serviced by the same municipal well field. Two of the three municipal wells currently exceed Maximum Contaminant Levels for TCE. EPA has stated that the source of the contamination is unknown, but all contaminants are frequently used as industrial solvents.

If you live near a Superfund site and are concerned about your water, drop us an email at hello@hydroviv.com or visit hydroviv.com and use our live chat feature. Hydroviv is staffed with scientists and policy experts that can help you make sense of your water and find an effective filter, even if it isn’t one we sell.

Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
Newly Designated Superfund Sites 
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Superfund: San Antonio, Texas

Analies Dyjak @ Wednesday, June 13, 2018 at 1:48 pm -0400

Analies Dyjak  |  Policy Nerd   

This week, Hydroviv is highlighting the six new National Priorities List (NPL) sites under the EPA Superfund program. Superfund sites are home to high levels of hazardous soil and groundwater contamination from years of improper disposal techniques. If you’d like to learn more about the ins and out of Superfund, check out our recap HERE. The Superfund site that we’re addressing in this article is located in San Antonio, Texas.  

San Antonio, Texas is home to another newly designated EPA Superfund site. EPA detected high levels of cyanide, lead, cadmium, copper, selenium, zinc, chromium, and chromium 6. The source of contamination is from the River City Metal Finishing facility, which was in operation from 1994 to 2002. Throughout operation and post closure, runoff and pollution from this facility entered into the Edwards Aquifer which provides domestic, industrial and agricultural water for a majority of San Antonio. Concentrations of chromium 6 exceeded federal maximum contaminant levels in shallow groundwater wells in the Edwards Aquifer. There are several adverse health effects associated with chromium 6 exposure. Aside from being a known human carcinogen, ingestion of chromium 6 can cause respiratory irritation, pulmonary congestion and edema, and damages to the kidney, liver, and skin. There are currently 20 public water supplies with a 4 mile radius of the San Antonio Superfund site.

If you live near an EPA Superfund site and are concerned about your water, drop us an email at hello@hydroviv.com or visit hydroviv.com and use our live chat feature. Hydroviv is staffed with scientists and policy experts that can help you make sense of your water and find an effective filter, even if it isn’t one we sell. Be sure to follow along this week as we discuss all of the newly designated Superfund sites!

Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
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Superfund: Hockessin, Delaware