Why water is getting hotter and wetter as the season heats up
Water has been becoming a hotter, drier and more unpredictable element of Australia’s climate over the past three decades, with the wetter the seasons and the drier the conditions, the ABC’s Climate Change Report has found.
The ABC analysis found more than 60 per cent of the state’s rivers have increased in their salinity by 30 to 40 per cent over the last 50 years, while more than half of Australia is now experiencing a drought.
There are now two major threats to Australia’s water supplies: climate change and the rising number of severe weather events.
“Drought has become more extreme and we’ve seen a number of events that are already putting significant strain on our water infrastructure,” Professor Alan O’Connor, director of the National Water Commission, said.
“In many parts of the country we’ve got some of the worst water stress we’ve had in Australia in a long time.”
A key risk to water supplies is the warming climate.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) estimates the average global surface temperature in 2020 was 1.8C above pre-industrial times.
It is likely to rise another 0.1C by the end of this century, with some areas likely to reach temperatures as high as 3.6C.
The warming is forcing more water to evaporate, which leads to increased salinity.
The rising water levels are also affecting the composition of the soil, which means it will take more water for the soil to hold the soil back.
The main problem with water, though, is it is not cheap.
“The most vulnerable are the people who live and work in water-stressed areas, and that’s where the most significant impact is coming from,” Professor O’Conner said.