1.5. Impact of climate change on water

Climate change has been observed over decades and so far, there has been no success in halting it.  According to the EEA, extreme weather and climate-related events resulting in hazards such as floods and droughts will become more frequent and more intense in many regions. Higher temperatures and extreme, less predictable weather conditions are projected to affect availability and distribution of rainfall, snowmelt, river flows and groundwater, and further deteriorate water quality. 

The effects of climate change will be felt everywhere in the world. Water availability will become less predictable in many places, and increased incidence of flooding threatens to destroy sanitation facilities and contaminate water sources. At present, an estimated 3.6 billion people (nearly half the global population) live in areas that are potentially water scarce for at least one month per year, and this population could increase to some 4.8–5.7 billion by 2050. [Ref 28] Changes in water availability will also impact health and food security and have already proven to trigger refugee dynamics and political instability.

Climate change has been observed across Europe, yet the effects vary across the continent. For example, precipitation has increased in the north but decreased in the south, and most projections show that both trends will continue throughout this century. According to the EEA, increased flooding is likely to be one of the most serious effects from climate change in Europe over the coming decades. [Ref 29]

Therefore, the National Adaptation Programmes need to include preparation for rising water levels or droughts among other hazards. The Floods Directive (2007/60/EC) requires the production of hazard maps with different scenarios, including more severe impacts. According to the directive, the preliminary flood risk assessments will also be updated every six years to take into account the impacts of climate change on the occurrence of floods.

The European Commission offers several examples of adaptation measures for using scarce water resources more efficiently (households, agriculture, industry); adapting building codes to future climate conditions and extreme weather events; building flood defences and raising the levels of dykes; developing drought-tolerant crops; choosing tree species and forestry practices less vulnerable to storms and fires; and setting aside land corridors to help species migrate. [Ref 30]

 Tip for auditors

An auditor should request the report about the risk assessment of climate change and the national adaptation programme to study whether the government has developed adequate measures to cope with the risks.

SAI Malta conducted an audit to examine whether Malta’s groundwater was adequately protected from climate change threats and other challenges.


kaasusAUDIT CASE

SAI Malta studied whether Malta’s groundwater was adequately protected from current challenges and climate change threats. This entailed evaluating the extent to which climate change adaptation measures to safeguard groundwater had been implemented.



Audit questions

Criteria

Were robust risk assessments carried out?

Benchmarking the assessments undertaking against the following criteria:

  • engagement of field experts, projected costs of specific measures
  • consideration of climate change impact
  • supranational review of assessments 
  • the scheduling of periodical reviews to determine whether the assessments have remained valid over time

Is an adequate strategy in place?

The strategies were reviewed against the following criteria:

  • risk and vulnerability assessments considered in the Government’s regulatory framework
  • operationalization of the regulatory framework in terms of: outcome targets, timeframes, clear roles, public consultation and formal approval

Are measures implemented in a timely manner?

The groundwater measures were reviewed against:

  • whether defined roles and responsibilities were established
  • if progress was made according schedule

 

The audit concluded that government had generally identified the prevailing and climate change threats as well as their impact on groundwater. The Water Policy, which aims to provide a holistic and integrated management approach of Malta’s water sources, was, at the time of the audit, in the process of formally being adopted by the Government. Some delays in the implementation of measures had materialized. The major factors contributing towards delays generally related to insufficient administrative capacity at different departmental levels and the lack of adequate management of information systems.