Climate change is affecting both the quality and quantity of our water. Warmer temperatures can change the amount of rain and snow that falls. This change can affect water levels and increase the chance of drought, flooding, erosion and other severe events.
Climate change will impact everyone living in Canada. Our freshwater ecosystems are in danger if wetlands dry up and river flows are affected. Climate change can reduce the flow in major rivers by as much as 20% this century. Extreme weather events can contribute to more water moving over the land in some areas and less water falling onto the ground in others.
Droughts can seriously impact agriculture, recreation, tourism, energy production and transportation. Hotter summers mean a greater need to use water for irrigation, which would directly change the water table and reduce wetlands.
Droughts may be more common in the future in areas that have dry spells today. Shared water sources such as reservoirs, rivers and groundwater wells are in danger of running dry.
Environmental Impacts on Water
We need to plan and build communities to support and respond to the shocks and stressors of a changing climate like flooding and droughts. These extremes take an incalculable emotional and social toll and cost a tremendous amount of money.
Planning Resilient Communities
As seasons change, temperature affects water in the Lake Winnipeg watershed. Lakes and rivers heat up in spring and summer, and water evaporates. Water stays in the atmosphere until it condenses, forming clouds and precipitation, then returning liquid water to the watershed. This process could be disturbed by changes in the global climate.
Temperature and rainfall variations may:
affect the availability of water
increase the frequency and severity of storms, floods and droughts
disrupt wetlands and other aspects of ecosystems that maintain water quality
increase the rate of algal growth
The interconnectedness of our ecosystem is like a woven fabric. When we pull one strand, others are affected, even if at first glance they may not appear to be connected.
Lake Winnipeg Watershed and Climate Change
Climate change contributes to the loss of our wetlands, which are critical to keeping water clean and reducing flooding. Wetlands are sensitive to changes in water quantity and temperature. Rising temperatures may change the range and types of animals that live in our waterways. It may also increase diseases in organisms.
Harm to Wetlands and Wildlife
We know that wildfires threaten forests, wildlife and other critical resources. Wildfires force people out of their homes and cottages. They also cause destruction and closures of recreational spaces, like campgrounds and trails.
Fires nearby water sources can result in less groundwater, more downstream flooding and the addition of harmful substances into the water. Wildfires burn a lot of the plants in forests, plus the critical top layer of soil. Burned soil and trees can't soak up or filter as much rain and snow into the ground. In that case, more unfiltered water flows into nearby waterways—sometimes leading to downstream flooding and pollution.
As years go by, our changing climate brings us more severe weather patterns. Wildfires are likely going to get worse.
Increased Wildfires and Destruction of Forests
Read the provincial government's Made-in-Manitoba Climate and Green Plan.