Increased frequency and intensity of rain events, or more frequent snow melt events, can affect all aspects of the water cycle and water movement through the watershed.
“Significant groundwater recharge areas” are important areas on the landscape that replenish our underground aquifers (which are sources of drinking water for many), and support the eventual discharge of groundwater to wetlands and coldwater streams. Warming winter temperatures may allow more rain or snowmelt to seep into the ground and recharge the aquifers. Conversely, drier summers may reduce groundwater recharge. Although impacts to groundwater may not be experienced for many years to come, it’s important to protect these recharge areas now to minimize any impacts.
Changes in precipitation patterns are already leading to changes in streamflow, including both low-flow periods getting longer and high-flow periods becoming more intense. When low-flow periods get longer it can lead to increased water temperatures, degraded water quality, and reduced stream habitats and connectivity. At the other end of the spectrum, extreme flooding isn’t much better. It can increase erosion and flush nutrients and pollution into streams, increasing the water’s turbidity (murkiness). As climate change continues, both low-flow and flooding conditions are expected to increase.
Climate projections forecast an increase in winter and spring precipitation, as well as an increase in the frequency, intensity and duration of storms. This means the potential for more frequent flooding events will increase, especially in the winter season, which can damage infrastructure, personal property and endanger lives.