Climate change could tighten water quality regulations

Among the impacts of climate change will be an aggravation of water quality in South Africa’s rivers and dams; this may, in turn, lead our water authorities to raise the bar for water discharged by industry and mines.

“Variable rainfall patterns occasioned by climate change are already being seen in more frequent high-intensity downpours in parts of the country,” said Manda Hinsch, partner and principal water and environmental scientist at SRK Consulting. “This means high-velocity run-off, accompanied by both increased leaching of soil nutrients and fertilizer and wash off of urban pollutants–which end up in our water impoundments.”

Global research confirms that more intense precipitation and increased runoff means more pollution entering waterways in the form of sediments, nitrogen from agriculture, disease pathogens, pesticides, and herbicides. One of the more dramatic consequences can be blooms of harmful algae and bacteria.

The steady and ongoing enrichment of water with nutrients gradually reduces its quality, with significant implications for the environment and for downstream use, said Hinsch. Where these heavy rainfall events are interspersed with hot, dry periods, high levels of 1/2 evaporation could further increase the concentration of nutrients.

Author: Manda Hinsch | Partner and Principal Water & Environmental Scientist

SRK Africa