Periods of low or deficit availability

Periods of low water availability usually last for a number of months, leading to low flows in rivers. More extended, or particularly intense, dry periods may lead to widespread drying of the whole landscape:

• Low flows directly create several problems for:

o Irrigation and hydroelectric generation, and domestic water supply o Navigation and transportation using rivers

• Low flows are commonly associated with poor water quality o Public health issues and problems arise

• Low flows can induce coastal change o Beach resources become an issue

• The drying of large land areas decreases soil moisture o Soil becomes friable and susceptible to wind erosion o Irrigation water is often scarce and agricultural problems appear

• Peat drying creates a special set of problems o Increased risk of peat fires, air pollution and loss of resources o Increased movement of pollutants through soil to rivers, decreasing water quality

• Drying leads to shrinkage of lakes and wetlands o Changes of limnology and aquatic biology, with associated ecological changes on land

• Drying creates atmospheric aerosol o Windblown dust, soil and peat-fire particles become air pollution aerosol o Aerosols may include heavy metals and radio-nuclides among pollution types o Salt from lake beds (the Aral Sea problem) may become:

■ Deposits on agricultural crops, decreasing yield or killing plants

■ Incorporated into glacial ice, lowering melting temperature and enhancing thawing

■ Cloud condensation nuclei, modifying cloud formation and precipitation regimes

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