Climate Change Diminishing Caribbean Water Supply

By Sara Jerome

Scientists and government officials are sounding the alarm bell about climate change in the Caribbean by drawing attention to its potential effects on the water supply.

They say climate change may have severe effects on regional water scarcity issues in the coming decades, the Associated Press recently reported.

The United Nations and government officials are promoting regional action on the problem. “Inaction is not an option,” Lystra Fletcher-Paul, Caribbean land and water officer for the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, told the AP. “The water resources will not be available.”

Solutions could include desalinating salt water, streamlining the use of current supplies, and prohibiting development that would further tax local resources, the report said. The barrier to all those avenues is cost.

Caribbean nations largely obtain most of their water supply through ground water, which is particularly susceptible to the effects of climate change, experts said in the article. Barbados stands at the greatest risk for water scarcity, the report said, pointing to a 2012 study by the analyst firm Maplecroft.

Countries are hardly sitting still. The government in Barbados is busy promoting awareness about the “water crisis,” according to IDB America, magazine of the Inter-American Development Bank.  Officials point out that “freshwater is becoming a scarce commodity, raising the specter of shortages for the local population.”

This does not bode well for the nation’s major industries. Tourism could take a hit since the service industry must provide considerable amounts of water to guests, and water is needed for agriculture.

Experts say climate change is impacting the gamut of water issues, not just scarcity.

According to Alex Dehgan, a science and technology adviser to the administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, climate change may “increase the frequency and severity of floods and droughts, and disrupt ecosystems that maintain water quality.”

Climate change is affecting U.S. water resources, as well.

“Cities across the United States should anticipate significant water-related vulnerabilities based on current carbon emission trends because of climate change, ranging from water shortages to more intense storms and floods to sea level rise,” according to a white paper by the Natural Resources Defense Councilpublished to Water Online.

Image credit: “Acp | Wikimedia Commons,” © 2010 Barbados, used under a Creative Commons Attribution license: