The implications of climate change for the water environment in England

Nigel W. Arnell (Lead / Corresponding author), Sarah J. Halliday, Richard W. Battarbee, Richard A. Skeffington, Andrew J. Wade

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Abstract

This paper reviews the implications of climate change for the water environment and its management in England. There is a large literature, but most studies have looked at flow volumes or nutrients and none have considered explicitly the implications of climate change for the delivery of water management objectives. Studies have been undertaken in a small number of locations. Studies have used observations from the past to infer future changes, and have used numerical simulation models with climate change scenarios. The literature indicates that climate change poses risks to the delivery of water management objectives, but that these risks depend on local catchment and water body conditions. Climate change affects the status of water bodies, and it affects the effectiveness of measures to manage the water environment and meet policy objectives. The future impact of climate change on the water environment and its management is uncertain. Impacts are dependent on changes in the duration of dry spells and frequency of ‘flushing’ events, which are highly uncertain and not included in current climate scenarios. There is a good qualitative understanding of ways in which systems may change, but interactions between components of the water environment are poorly understood. Predictive models are only available for some components, and model parametric and structural uncertainty has not been evaluated. The impacts of climate change depend on other pressures on the water environment in a catchment, and also on the management interventions that are undertaken to achieve water management objectives. The paper has also developed a series of consistent conceptual models describing the implications of climate change for pressures on the water environment, based around the source-pathway-receptor concept. They provide a framework for a systematic assessment across catchments and pressures of the implications of climate change for the water environment and its management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-120
Number of pages28
JournalProgress in Physical Geography
Volume39
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2015

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Keywords

  • climate change
  • estuaries
  • groundwater
  • lakes
  • river flows
  • water framework directive
  • water quality

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