Author: Rachel Fritts

How to build a climate-resilient water supply

Source(s): Eos - AGU
African students using water taps

Scientists developed a new model to help water utility companies minimize weather-based disruptions to clean water access.

Jamaica will likely face more frequent and intense extreme weather events over the coming decades because of climate change. Such events, including flooding and drought, could strain the country’s water infrastructure and disrupt access to clean water. To help these systems become more resilient in the face of climate change, Becher et al. developed a model to quantify how extreme weather events would affect Jamaica’s water infrastructure.

The researchers found that currently, Jamaica’s utility customers experience an island-wide average of 5 days of climate-related water supply disruption per year, and climate change will exacerbate the situation. Even in a best-case carbon emissions scenario, disruptions could double by the end of the century. Under more pessimistic emissions scenarios, disruptions could increase by a factor of 2.5.

The actual disruptions that customers might experience vary spatially and depend on the type of weather event. Infrastructure damage due to a cyclone, for example, would cause acute and widespread water supply disruptions. Meanwhile, disruptions from drought might be more frequent and protracted.

The authors hope that their study informs and promotes investment in climate-resilient water infrastructure in Jamaica. Finding and fixing leaks in aging water pipes, for instance, could improve resilience to drought conditions. Meanwhile, flood barriers could mitigate the impacts of cyclones. Such adaptive measures could save millions of people from going days without clean water.

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