Impact of climate change on water resources

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Water is one of the main integrating factors for many environmental and economic systems in Europe. Under current climatic conditions, many areas have problems with water supply. Climate change is likely to enhance water-related stresses in these areas (8).

Table 1. Assessment of European population at risk of a rise in sea level9

Scenario

Country f°"ise in sea levi

People affected People at risk'' Capital value loss for rise in Percent-

sea level No-Percent- No'°f Percent- Millions aqeof (metres) people ageQf people ageQf ^

sands) total lands) total US$ national product

Land loss

Wetland Adaptation and loss protection costs

Percent-kni2 age of total km2

Millions of US$

Percentage of gross national product

Germany

1.0

3 200

3.9

309

0.3

7 500

0.05

13 900

3.9

2 000

23 500

2.2

Netherlands

1.0

10 000

67

3 600

24

186 000

69

2 165

6.7

642

12 300

5.5

Poland

0.1

NAC

NA

25 (18)"

0.1 (0.05)

1 800

2

NA

NA

NA

700+4

2.1+0.01

Poland

0.3

NA

NA

58 (41)

0.1 (0.1)

4 700

5

845

0.25

NA

1 800+8

5.4+0.02

Poland

1.0

235

0.6

196(146)

0.5(0.4)

22 000

24

1 700

0.5

NA

4 800+400

14.5+1.2

aThe results are for the existing coastal defences, and all costs have been adjusted to US dollars in 1990. The numbers of people affected and at risk, capital loss, land loss and wetland loss assume no human response. The adaptation and protection costs assume that protection is implemented in all areas except those with low population density. The adaptation and protection costs for Poland include capital and annual operating costs, whereas % of gross national product assumes that the costs are all incurred in one year. 'People at risk are the number of people flooded by storm surges in an average year. CNA = not available.

dResults in parentheses are people who will be flooded more than once a year. Source: Nicholls & Mimura (50).

Areas vulnerable to water stress include:

• the Mediterranean region

• northern Scandinavia

• certain coastal zones

• central and eastern Europe.

In a warmer climate, water availability will be reduced by increased evapotranspiration. However, the response of hydrological systems depends on many factors, such as the distribution of precipitation and storage capacity. Many regions will experience a general decrease in runoff, although the change in runoff may range between -5% and +12%. More droughts are expected in southern Europe (8). The potential for winter and springtime flooding may be greater in northern, northwestern and central Europe.

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