As we are seeing this year, droughts seriously impact Manitoba, having a major impact on agriculture, recreation and tourism, water supply, energy production and transportation. During a drought, shared sources of water such as reservoirs, rivers and groundwater for wells are in jeopardy of running dry.
Hotter summers, extreme weather and a changing climate
In areas of Manitoba that experience periodic dry spells, the occurrence of droughts may be more frequent due to changing atmospheric conditions. Hotter summers mean a greater need to use water for irrigation, which would directly change the water table and reduce wetlands.
Climate change is a contributing factor in the loss of our wetlands; wetlands, which are critically important in keeping our water clean and mitigating flooding, are susceptible to changes in water quantity and temperature fluctuations. Rising temperatures may also affect the range of organisms, changing ecosystem composition and the extent of disease organisms.
Temperature and rainfall variations may:
affect the availability of water
increase the frequency and severity of storms, floods and droughts and
disrupt aspects of ecosystems that maintain water quality, such as wetlands.
Climate change is also affecting the amount of water available for our use in the Lake Winnipeg watershed. As carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere, weather patterns are changing, potentially leading to extreme and unpredictable weather such as droughts and floods. These changes in the weather may lead to uncertain water availability.
Warmer water temperatures will also increase the rate of algal growth. Increased algal growth can produce toxins and can degrade water quality. Lake Winnipeg is already experiencing excess blooms of algae from too many nutrients.
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.
It’s likely we will face more droughts in the future. But don’t lose hope. We can make choices now to build more climate-resilient communities. We can start preparing and learning how to live using less water.