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In our oceans and rivers, a growing number of fish species are threatened or endangered by the human use of water. Some aquatic ecosystems have been completely destroyed or irreversibly modified by human water withdrawals. For example, the Aral Sea, nestled on the frontier between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, was once the fourth-largest inland salt-water body. Today, it is barely a quarter of its size a half century ago—thanks to the massive diversion for Soviet irrigation projects of the vast rivers that once fed it. All 24 species of fish found only in the Aral Sea are now extinct. Likewise, nearly one-third of all North American freshwater fauna populations are considered threatened with extinction, a trend mirrored elsewhere around the world. Water flows in average years no longer reach the deltas of many of the world’s great rivers, including the Nile, Yellow, Amu Darya, and the Colorado, leading to nutrient depletion, loss of habitat for native fisheries, plummeting populations of birds, erosion of shorelines, and adverse effects on local communities.

All of these problems are likely to be made worse by the world’s changing climate, which will have an increasing impact on water resources and the systems we built to manage them. As temperatures rise, the need for water will rise; as precipitation patterns change, water availability will change. Glaciers and snow packs are diminishing, while the frequencies and intensities of storms are more irregular. Meanwhile, water managers are wholly unprepared to meet the demands of a different climate.”

Read “Facing Down the Hydro-Crisis

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