M. Hellmuth, P. Kabat

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


Even without the impacts of climate change, water managers face prodigious challenges in meeting sustainable development goals. Growing populations need affordable food, water and energy. Industrial development demands a growing share of water resources and contaminates those same resources with its untreated wastes. Nature is at the back of the queue, but preserving enough flows to sustain aquatic ecosystems is vital for human survival and to preserve biodiversity. By 2025, the global demand for freshwater is expected to rise by 25¿r more, but we are still contaminating the available supplies at an accelerating rate. The drinking water supply and sanitation sector has laudable targets: safe water and sanitation for all by 2025, with the intermediate Millennium goal of halving the proportion of people lacking those basic services by 2015. Considering that in the year 2000 more than a billion people had no safe water supply and some 2.4 billions lacked hygienic sanitation facilities, a huge collective effort is needed even to approach the objectives. Factoring in climatic extremes adds to the challenges, but it is vital if progress is not to be continually wiped out by hydrometeorological disasters. When drinking water wells and latrines are flooded or falling groundwater tables leave hand pumps dry, there are disease epidemics, deaths and "environmental refugees", and years of investments by people and governments are rendered worthless. Agriculture is the biggest water consumer and climate change will not alter that. What may change though is the balance of food production, with the developed countries producing a greater share of rising food demands and developing countries dining on imported "virtual water". As water gets scarcer, balancing the needs of people and those of nature becomes even harder. Nature is adaptable and resilient, but shrinking lakes and declining fisheries are just two of the indicators that there are limits to our maltreatment of her. When La Niña brings drought and declining river flows, it is not just food production that suffers. Loss of hydropower damages industry, the power companies, and ultimately people¿s jobs. The threats from climate variability and climate change are many and varied
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationClimate changes the water rules; how water managers can cope with today's climate variability and tomorrow's climate change.
EditorsB. Appleton
Place of PublicationDelft/Wageningen
PublisherDialogue on Water and Climate
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • climatic change
  • water supply
  • water systems
  • discharge
  • rivers


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  • ESS-CC

    Project: Other

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