Climate change is expected to cause two potential changes to the climate; increased temperature and the frequency of heavy rainfall events associated with flooding. Flooding can lead to an increased risk of infection from waterborne pathogens, and many occurrences of gastrointestinal illnesses (GI) have been documented following heavy rainfalls and flooding. Disease outbreaks have occurred when underground sources of drinking water have been impacted. Furthermore, surface water in lakes and streams can also occur following flooding and may place persons at risk who are involved in recreational water contact such as swimming or fishing.
Exposure to waterborne and food borne pathogens can occur by eating seafood and fresh produce or drinking water. Weather can affect the transport and dissemination of microbial pollutants. Disease causing microbes (bacteria and viruses) can cause gastrointestinal illness. Due to the decline in age, the aging human immune system changes the protective barriers in the gastrointestinal functions. Therefore, older adults are particularly susceptible to microbial illnesses such as cryptosporidium, giardia, e-Coli, salmonella and shigella, and viruses such as Norwalk.
Climate change with increased rainfall, snowmelt and increased temperatures will require public health officials and water supply managers to plan for future climate change.
How Can I Avoid Water-Related Hazards?
The most important step is to be aware of advisories issued by your local health department or department of environment and abide by their advice. Learn about your water and whether you should test for certain contaminants.
Follow Public Notices on Drinking Water: Your water supplier is required to issue a notice by newspaper, radio, TV, mail or hand-delivery if there is a waterborne disease emergency. The notice will describe any precautions you need to take, such as boiling your water or using bottled water. Follow the advice of your water supplier. Boiling water for one minute will normally kill micro-organisms but will not help with chemical contamination.
EPA Drinking Water Hotline (800) 426-4791
EPA fact sheet on Water.