The human factor in water disasters

Interesting article from Erica Gies: “Decisions about land use and infrastructure have left little space for water, amplifying the effects of natural disasters and climate change.”

  • Society has dammed and diverted two-thirds of the world’s large rivers, drained as much of 87% of global wetlands and degraded 75% of Earth’s land area.
  • A study found that, from 1992 to 2019, humans have encroached on 600,000 square kilometres of floodplains — an area about the size of Ukraine. In taking space from water, such development causes rivers to rise and places people living nearby at higher risk of flooding.
  • for every 1% increase in paved area, annual flood magnitude in nearby rivers increases by 3.3% from run-off.
  • … has found another way that deforestation reduces rain. The surface roughness of mixed-species forests makes them better than tree plantations or crops at slowing wind, and thereby makes it more likely that vapour will condense into rain
  • … European settlers and their descendants dried out land by killing beavers that created wetlands across 10% of North America, overgrazing animals they brought with them, and overpumping ground water so that plant roots could no longer reach it.

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