Climate Change Impacts to Rivers

Climate Change Impacts on Rivers

Hotter, drier conditions associated with climate change are already impacting California streams and rivers. Since at least 2010, our state has seen less winter snow accumulation, earlier spring snowmelt and lower summer streamflows. Low flows in rivers and streams also intensify the impacts of pollution and sediment loading. The chain effect of less precipitation and warmer temperatures leads to lower river flows and higher water temperatures, which can lead to toxic algae outbreaks and unhealthy river conditions. The distribution and longevity of surface water flows and general decrease in water availability impacts affects fish passage and wildlife composition more broadly. This harms not only our environment, but also impacts California’s economy, communities and culture.

Redwood Creek Photo by Humboldt Baykeeper

Taking Action

One of the most important strategies to make our rivers and streams more resilient to climate change is to make more room for for floodwaters, recharge, and wildlife through riparian restoration. You can take action locally to reduce your water use which minimizes stresses on our water system as we encounter more frequent and more severe droughts. You can also increase groundwater recharge until we have sustainable groundwater management, slow down water with rain gardens, bioswales and allow the river to widen for more recharge. Further, you can keep all water useable by reducing water pollution. The largest source of pollution for many rivers is urban runoff and personal choices about landscaping can greatly affect that.

Pacific Tree Frog

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