Climate change is wild card in water security – SEI analysts

July 25, 2012

** This post is part of AlertNet’s special report on water: The Battle for Water

We can think creatively about water management, but unknown large global threats could cause a fundamental reorganisation of life on Earth, according to a water expert with the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI).

“A doomsday scenario would be that if the Greenland ice sheet melts, and then there’s six metres of sea-level rise — all bets are off,” said David Purkey,  a senior scientist who heads SEI’s Northern California office. “I think we’ve got bigger problems than water scarcity at that moment.”

“What happens when L.A. has to evacuate, when New York has to evacuate? At that point, I wonder whether rational conversations about water management will be what we’re having.”

In a separate interview, Arno Rosemarin, senior research fellow at SEI’s EcoSanRes (ecological sanitation research) programme, told AlertNet that water security problems will be compounded by global population growth, expected to hit 9 billion by 2050.

Rosemarin cautioned that climate change could also have an unknown impact on vulnerable urban populations in ever-expanding cities.

“We aren’t going to have enough water,” Rosemarin said. When you add factors like weather changes, drought and flooding — you can’t manage — it’s like a monster and that’s not water supply that’s a disaster.”

Treating greywater and sewage to be re-used in urban agriculture — using less water, more efficient taps and appliances — even choosing to eat fried food instead of boiled, are just a few water-management tactics Rosemarin recommends.

To read the interviews, please visit AlertNet, and for more stories about water, visit the Battle for Water page.

Picture caption: Chinese People’s Liberation Army soldiers place sandbags to block a breaching dyke after heavy rainfalls hit the Fangshan district of Beijing, July 25, 2012.  REUTERS/Stringer

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