Coupled Hydro-Environmental & Human Systems

Global climate change is directly relevant to water security. Climate change and its direct impacts on water availability and quality pose a serious threat those living in the developing world by affect living condition, livelihoods, health, and well-being as well as economic development. For example, many growing urban areas in the Global South are dependent on hydroelectricity for energy; yet, with increasing and changing availability, entire cities’ energy availability, and thus economic capacity, will be threatened. For coastal areas – regions with the largest concentration of human settlement– increased sea-water temperatures, sea-level rise, and saltwater intrusion into coastal aquifers threaten water infrastructure and water quality. In other regions, watersheds, cities and communities, climate change-induced glacial melt threaten urban freshwater access and availability. Moreover, changing precipitation patterns, increasing frequency of extreme weather events, and unpredictable conditions or more erratic events, further increase the number or intensity of flood events, thus exacerbating existing water services, infrastructure, and development problems across the globe.

Efforts to understand the complex coupling of climate change, water security, and human well-being demand critical and focused efforts to develop an integrated, holistic understanding of how geosciences and human systems interact at multiple scales.  Some have called this approach “socio-hydrology.” This will lead to better policies and interventions to increase community resilience and identify critical climate adaptation strategies.