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– Climate & Health Effects –

– Climate & Health Effects –

Do you like to fish? Do you like to enjoy our recreational waters in northern Wisconsin? No doubt, we have a variety of water resources amongst beautiful lakes and rivers, which support recreational activities such as fishing, and also are part of the water ecosystem that supports drinking water for humans and animals, and other agricultural needs.

Water sources are especially important in regard to quantity, and quality to support human and animal existence, and are affected by climate change from increasing temperatures and altering precipitation patterns.

Studies indicate that Wisconsin’s temperatures are increasing in all seasons, but with the highest amount of warming occurring in the winter. The studies also indicate precipitation is increasing in spring, fall and winter seasons.

An increase in temperature and precipitation affects Wisconsin’s water cycles. Specifically, an increase in frequency and heaviness of precipitation events, will wash more sediment and nutrients, such as phosphorous, off the landscape, especially from agricultural land and into water sources. The nutrients fertilize algae and enhance their growth. In addition, the sediment from runoff, combined with a greater amount of algae, causes low visibility for sight-feeding fish and diving birds.

It even limits the sunlight for photosynthesis to allow aquatic vegetation to grow and thrive, which is needed for aquatic insect and fish communities. In essence, climate change can affect every part of the aquatic ecosystem. This can cause a huge problem for the sport of fishing, which is a huge part of the northern Wisconsin culture and tourism industry.

The effects of climate change on water quality also affect drinking water, which causes a risk to human health. Increased temperature and precipitation causes dissolved organic matter, micropollutants and pathogens to rise.

Bacteria and viruses thrive in these conditions, and when they are in contact with humans, numerous illnesses can develop. Diarrhea, vomiting, rashes and exposure to cancercausing toxins in water supplies, pose a significant risk to one’s overall health, especially vulnerable populations, such as children and elderly.

These exposures can lead to an immediate health issue, such as an emergency room visit for severe gastrointestinal symptoms or, over time, chronic exposure to high levels of pollutants, such as perflourcarbons and polyfluoroalkl (PFA), which are substances that may cause cancer. PFAs are from chemicals from manufacturing and processing industries that make cookware, food packaging, and stain repellants and firefighting foams, which can contaminate drinking water.

Wisconsin’s water sources are used for a wide variety of things, such as natural habitats, industry, agriculture and recreation. Climate change, with the increase in the frequency and heaviness of precipitation, affects the quality of the water sources, and affects the aquatic ecosystems and human communities. Climate change needs to be addressed by water resource managers, municipalities, academics, and conservation and environmental organizations, and all citizens to preserve water sources.

You can help with solutions by learning about how climate change is a direct result of burning of fossil fuels, and advocating for clean and renewable energy sources, like sun, water and wind as options to decrease damage to our water resources. Converting to electric vehicles, carpooling, and walking or riding a bicycle when the conditions permit, are additional options to help reduce pollution contributing to climate change.

Making these kinds of transitions will help preserve Wisconsin’s water quality and quantity, as one of our most important resources, needed not only for our own health, but for the future health of our children and communities.