Thirsty for Climate Solutions: How Climate Change Affects Our Water

By path2positive

Climate for Health partners with many well-established and highly respected organizations. One of them, Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), won a 1985 Nobel Peace Prize and has been working for more than 50 years to create a healthy, just and peaceful world for both the present and future generations. PSR advocates on the issues you care about by addressing the dangers that threaten communities, using our medical and public health expertise to: prevent nuclear war and proliferation, reverse our trajectory towards climate change, protect the public and our environment from toxic chemicals, and eliminate the use of nuclear power. PSR has a wealth of climate and health resources available to the public and professionals, including fact sheets on a variety of climate health consequences. The fact sheet we've highlighted below pertains to how climate change contaminates water supplies. As health professionals, you can use this information to help advance education on the overlaps between health and climate change. To become more involved in solutions, join Climate for Health today.


Climate Change Contaminates Your Water

Physicians for Social Responsibility

Climate change is making heavy intense downpours, droughts and rising water temperatures more common. This can alter the quality of our drinking and recreational water. Bacteria and viruses thrive in these new conditions and when they come into contact with humans, can cause numerous illnesses. Lack of water can also impact human health, especially in drought conditions.

Flooding and Runoff Contaminate Water

Contamination of drinking water by bacteria, viruses, and protozoa can trigger outbreaks of illnesses such as the diarrheal diseases legionella, campylobacter, and cholera.

  • From 2009–2010, 33 water-associated disease outbreaks were reported in the U.S. They caused 1,040 cases of illness, 85 hospitalizations, and nine deaths. Many regions of the world, including the Northeast and Southern Great Plains of the United States, have experienced an increase in precipitation. This is expected to continue as climate change persists.

Some regions, like the Midwest, have experienced alternating patterns of flooding and drought.
Drought reduces the earth’s ability to absorb the water. When precipitation falls as more intense storms or as hurricanes that can cause flooding and jeopardize water quality.

  • In rural areas, water runoff picks up animal wastes, pesticides, and fertilizers
  • In cities, runoff both carries pollutants and overwhelms sewage systems, causing untreated sewage to flow into drinking and recreational water sources.

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