Photo: A child rolling an inner tube

This Honduran “desert” was pasture and farmland before Hurricane Mitch arrived in November 1998.

Photograph by Bradley E. Clift

As the planet experiences global warming, climate changes will express themselves most obviously through water—with scientists predicting increased periods of drought and flooding, melting glaciers, and changing rain and snowfall patterns.

We are already seeing large-scale changes in places such as the Andes and the Himalaya, where glaciers are disappearing, taking with them the source of drinking and irrigation water for thousands of people. Floods, droughts, storms, and other climate-related natural disasters forced 20 million people from their homes in 2008.

That same year, India faced the dislocation of some three million people when the Kosi River breached a dam and roared out of the Himalaya, causing the worst flooding of that river in 50 years. Then, ten months later, India witnessed its driest June in 80 years with millions of farmers unable to plant their crops, illustrating the increased unpredictability and extreme nature of severe weather and climate-related events in an era of global warming.

The solution? Some experts point to better planning and water resource use, sometimes in the form of building dams and flood control structures, while others tackle the less tangible issue of greenhouse gas emissions.

Fast Facts

  • Australia remains locked in a decade-long drought deemed the worst in the country’s 117 years of recordkeeping.
  • In 2009, famine stalked millions in the Horn of Africa, as failed rains led to the worst food crisis in Ethiopia and Kenya in a quarter century.
  • In November 2007, Georgia Governor Sonny Purdue stood outside the State Capitol and led a prayer for rain, beseeching the heavens to turn a spigot on for his parched state.


Did You Know?

Scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, at UC-San Diego, estimate there is a 50 percent chance that Lake Mead—the vast reservoir that delivers Colorado River water to tens of millions of people and one million acres (404,686 hectares) of irrigated land—will dry up by 2021.

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Help Save the Colorado River

You can help restore freshwater ecosystems by pledging to cut your water footprint. For every pledge, Change the Course will restore 1,000 gallons back to the Colorado River.

Freshwater Advocates

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    Freshwater Hero: Pete McBride

    Pete is a photographer and visual storyteller with an emphasis on freshwater conservation.

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    Sandra Postel

    Sandra is a leading authority on international freshwater issues and is spearheading our global freshwater efforts.

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    Osvel Hinojosa Huerta

    For more than 15 years, Osvel Hinojosa Huerta has been resurrecting Mexico's Colorado River Delta wetlands.

For More Inspiration »

Change the Course Infographic


Check out this infographic and learn how you can conserve water and save the Colorado River, as well as other freshwater ecosystems.

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Water Currents, by Sandra Postel and Others

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