Global Impact

Water is one of our most precious resources and is essential for all life on earth. It is a very limited resource, as even though 71% of the earth's surface is covered in water, only 0.3% of the world's total freshwater supply is accessible to humans.

Climbing global temperatures are already having a serious effect on our water supply, and it is widely accepted that a global water crisis is likely to occur over the course of this century. Climate change is also affecting our weather, with extreme flooding becoming a more regular occurrence.

Water supply: The volume and quality of fresh water available to humans is projected to decrease. Therefore, increased competition for fresh water supply is likely, and many regions across the world are already experiencing an imbalance between water supply and demand. The United Nations estimate that about one third of the world's population is already living in water-stressed areas.

Drier summers will lead to a shortage in water flow, affecting animals, plants and eco-systems as well as people. Reductions in irrigation for agricultural will affect crop yields, which will result in food security issues.

Wealthier countries may be able to afford to invest in new technologies to secure water supplies, such as building dams and water reservoirs. Unfortunately, less developed countries will lack the resources to secure access to clean water for drinking, agriculture and sanitation. This in turn is likely to lead to food shortages, spread of disease and increased mortality rates.

Flooding: If sea levels rise as dramatically as predicted, flooding will wreak havoc on countries with a weak infrastructure. Agricultural livelihoods could be destroyed in low lying areas and millions of people may become homeless.

The devastating effects of extreme flooding are clear from the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, when more than 225,000 people were killed. The relief operation to help rebuild the infrastructure of the area and provide support for those affected by the tsunami is ongoing. It has been deemed as one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history.

Low-lying areas, such as the Netherlands where 26% of the country is below sea level and 55% is at risk of flooding, are under serious pressure to introduce measures to cope with rising sea levels. However, countries such as Bangladesh, where around 80% of the country consists of a lowland plain rising less than 10 m above sea level, do not have the financial resources to facilitate the necessary mitigating measures. This may result in 'climate refugees' in the future where people flee their homes due to rising sea levels as a result of climate change. 

Irish Impact

As a result of climate change, it is predicted that Ireland will experience more frequent water shortages and flooding.

Water supply: Despite the fact that Ireland receives enough water in the form of precipitation to sustain our environment and meet human demand, the ageing infrastructure
notwithstanding, availability of water is much higher in the west than in the east of the country due to precipitation patterns. However, more of the population live in the east, with the result that some areas experience significant water shortages, especially with the more extreme weather being experienced in recent years.  

Long dry spells were experienced in Ireland in the summer of 2018, which resulted in a  huge increase in water demands. In turn, water supplies were put under severe stress resulting in the introduction of water restrictions as a preventative measure for future water outages. For further information on water restrictions and shortages, click here. To check the water supply in your area, click here.

Flooding:  Ireland has experienced some serious flooding in recent years. Dunboyne and Clonee, for example, have been flooded by the River Tolka numerous times, with severe flooding occurring in 2000 and 2002. In November 2009, the centre of Cork was flooded by the River Lee. Parts of western Ireland were also badly affected by floods along the River Shannon. In County Kildare, Sallins, Celbridge and Clane were flooded by the River Liffey.

In January 2014, Clontarf promenade in Dublin was badly flooded, as were the areas of Cleggan and Salthill, County Galway, and Cork City. Indeed, many coastal zones in the west experienced flooding, as did Waterford City in the south when floodwater circumnavigated the flood defences on the quay. Flooding in Donegal in 2017 as a result of a 1-in-100 year rainfall event caused bridges to collapse and displaced many people. 

One of the worst affected areas in Ireland for flooding is Clonmel, Co. Tipperary. The town is built on the flood plain on the River Suir and major flood damage was done in 2000, 2004 and again in February 2009. A flood relief scheme was signed in April 2008 to protect the area from flooding, and works were completed in 2014. For more information on completed flood defences nationwide, click here. For information on places in Ireland that may be at risk from flooding, click here.

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