Climate Change


The Biggest Threats to our Water System Right Now
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The effects of climate change are profound and wide-reaching. One of the key resources now at risk due to rising global temperatures is water supplies around the world and the health and quality of the water meant for drinking. ABC News is taking Earth Month to explore what’s happening to water from different lenses, from business to residential to sea level rise and what the government is doing to protect the most precious commodity on Earth.

Chapter 1: Drought in the West
What will happen literally when we hit the wall in terms of water? What happens then?
Rob Ford, Rancher
One of the fastest-growing areas in the U.S. is also feeling the impact of drought in the West. St. George, Utah, is running out of water and some residents are left wondering, "What’s next?"

The West is running out of water. A decades-long megadrought spurred by climate change is coinciding with a continued population boom, further siphoning vast amounts of water out of the country’s largest reservoirs. In places like St. George, Utah, the effects of the drought are particularly challenging.

ABC News graphic comparing water usage from individuals in gallons per day for Washington County, Utah, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Tucson.
Coral Canyon golf course, one of 14 golf courses in the St. George, Utah area. St. George is one of the most rapidly growing parts of the country and is also at risk of running out of water. (Todd Parks for ABC News)
Chapter 2: Puerto Rico’s Water at Risk
Once you pollute the groundwater, cleaning the aquifer is extremely difficult. And it takes decades, if ever, [before] it will become clean.
Neftali Garcia, Environmental Scientist
Already a water insecure island, Puerto Rico is sharing what’s left with big business, and the effects of climate change are only exacerbating the effects. This is how water supplies have suffered.

The manufacturing industry is decimating the finite water supply on the island of Puerto Rico. Decades-old federal tax incentives brought manufacturing industries to the island in droves, but left the environment in shambles. Environmental experts explain how the dwindling water supply in Puerto Rico continues to be threatened.

Superfund sites in Puerto Rico
Warning signs are displayed on the fence surrounding the inactive Barceloneta Landfill site in Puerto Rico. About 300 tons of hazardous wastes are located in sinkholes on the property. (Jessie DiMartino/ABC News)
Chapter 3: Lead in the Water
People are now in a situation where they don’t know who they can trust and what to do about their lead and water.
Marc Edwards, Professor of Engineering
Lead in water

Do you know what is in your drinking water? Millions of Americans could be drinking water contaminated with lead and not even know it. For more than a century, scientists have been warning of the detriments of continuing to ingest water flowing through lead pipes, a popular plumbing material used in the 1800s. Despite the warnings, many cities continued to install lead piping for decades, which could have lead to a modern-day health crisis.

City of Flint, Michigan workers prepare to replace a lead water service line pipe at the site of the first Flint home with high lead levels to have its lead service line replaced under the Mayor's Fast Start program, March 4, 2016, in Flint, Mich. (Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
Chapter 4: Rising Seas
Folks have never actually gone to war just because of water. Now, we could be at the point in history where that changes.
Mohammad Mahmoud, Middle East Institute
By 2025, Egypt is projected to be a water-scarce nation as climate change and a major dam threaten its source of survival.

Egypt’s Nile River, one of the most storied bodies of water in the world, is under extreme threat due to rising sea levels, extreme heat and a major dam project that is putting strain on the river and people who depend on it to survive. The river provides about 90% of drinking water to Egypt, so any disruption to the water source could become problematic for the vast majority of residents and businesses.

This general view shows the site of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in Guba, Ethiopia, Feb. 19, 2022. (Amanuel Sileshi/AFP via Getty Images)
The Nile River stretches approximately 4,100 miles through 11 countries. Extreme heat, rising sea levels, and a major dam project are putting a strain on the river and the people who depend on it for survival.
Chapter 5: Coastal Flooding
As sea levels rise at faster rates, coastal communities around the world face an existential dilemma: adapt or leave. That’s the case in New York City.

Sea level rise is threatening one of the most populated metropolises in the world. New York City is preparing for an 8-inch to 30-inch rise in sea levels by the 2050s – a significant increase that will severely amplify flood crises from events such as hurricanes, thunderstorms and even high tides on sunny days. More than a million people live in or near the flood zone.

A general view shows contruction workers at the site of a flood defense project on the east side of New York, Dec. 11, 2021. (Ed Jones/AFP via Getty Images)