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Rivers and Lakes

Water and Climate Change

No part of the world will be untouched by the earth’s warming, and this is especially true for freshwater resources.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, “freshwater resources have the potential to be highly impacted by climate change and human societies and ecosystems will both feel the consequences.”

As societies around the globe struggle to adjust to a new climate and growing populations, water managers are looking to secure adequate fresh water for human uses while anticipating more severe floods and droughts. The Nature Conservancy is providing ways to build a more resilient future in these uncertain times.

We are working to address climate change’s impact on rivers, lakes and wetlands by:

Because climate change is happening already, we must take immediate, thoughtful action to adapt so that our rivers, lakes and wetlands can continue to support us and thrive.

Adapting to a New World

We know that climate change’s impacts on water flows in rivers will severely limit our ability to meet human water needs. The key to providing for human water needs is sustaining healthy, functioning freshwater ecosystems that can tolerate changes in river flows and are resilient to drought, floods and rising temperatures.

The major threat to freshwater ecosystems now and in a warmer climate is human-induced changes in water flows, caused by the heavy demands we have placed on them. These altered flows affect every aspect of a river or lake’s health by impacting water temperature and the timing, quantity and quality of water flows.

Environmental flow management can help to mitigate the consequences of climate change as part of an adaptation strategy. Building from this focus, The Nature Conservancy is working with governments and partners to:

  • Design water-supply systems that can accommodate changes in river flow patterns including increased floods, droughts and rising temperatures.
  • Adopt comprehensive, basin-wide approaches to water management that include maintaining adequate environmental flows to preserve flexibility and build resilience.
  • Manage existing water infrastructure sustainably by providing appropriate environmental flow releases.
  • Restore floodplains and wetlands that can provide flood storage, water filtration and recharge aquifers used for drinking water supplies.
  • Remove unnecessary barriers that block fish and other species from migrating to cooler waters as temperatures rise.
  • Invest in applied research on the impacts of climate change and link adaptation strategies to this research.

By working together, we can weather a new climate that can sustain people and nature.

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