Climate change impacts on water quality

More attention needs to be paid to the causes and responses to declining water quality and its management.

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 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." says Manda Hinsch, partner and principal water and environmental scientist, SRK Consulting.

Global research confirms that more intense precipitation and increased run-off result in increased levels of 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 signicant implications for the environment and downstream use," Hinsch explains. Where these heavy rainfall events are interspersed with hot, dry periods, high levels of evaporation could further increase the concentration of nutrients.

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

SRK Africa