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Quality of Freshwater
QUALITY OF FRESHWATER
(A Canadian Perspective)
Water quality would suffer from the projected impacts of climate change. Poor water quality effectively diminishes the availability of potable water, and increases the costs associated with rendering water suitable for use.
Changes in water quantity and water quality are inextricably linked. Lower water levels tend to lead to higher pollutant concentrations, whereas high flow events and flooding increase turbidity and the flushing of contaminants into the water system. Box 2 lists some of the main water quality concerns facing different regions of the country.
Warmer air temperatures would result in increased surface-water temperatures, decreased duration of ice cover and, in some cases, lower water levels. These changes may contribute to decreased concentrations of dissolved oxygen, higher concentrations of nutrients such as phosphorus, and summer taste and odour problems.
River flows are expected to become more variable in the future, with more flash floods and lower minimum flows. Both types of hydrological extreme have been shown to negatively affect water quality.
Climate change may also affect the quality of groundwater. For example, reduced rates of groundwater recharge, flow and discharge may increase the concentrations of contaminants in groundwater. Saltwater intrusion into groundwater aquifers in coastal regions is another concern, although Canadian research on this topic is limited. In southern Manitoba, future changes in precipitation and temperature may cause groundwater levels in some parts of the Red River basin to decline faster than others. These changes would affect the flow in the aquifer, and possibly shift the saline-freshwater boundary beneath the Red River valley, so that the groundwater in some areas may no longer be drinkable.
BOX 2: Main water quality concerns across Canada
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