Industry insights

Does Climate Change Directly Impact Water Quality?

By Matt Stimpson |  Published

We are in the middle of a climate emergency. Just recently, the COP26 Summit took place in Glasgow, bringing global leaders together to take much-needed action in tackling the immediate effects of climate change. What the outcomes will be remain to be seen, but with dryer, hotter summers together with wetter, windier winters, the extreme effects of a changing planet are already here to see. So does climate change directly impact water quality – and if so, how?

Water quality and climate change

Many talks and discussions on all areas of climate change are ongoing, but the link between water quality and climate change is not often made. It usually focuses on too much water, such as floods and rising sea levels, or not enough of it to drink in developing countries. But the impact of climate change on the quality of water looks to be increasingly important.

The change in the global climate means the earth is getting warmer. Maybe not so much that you can notice each day, but our lower atmosphere is being eroded by trapped CO2 emissions which continue to rise. As a result, this additional warmth increases evaporation from our oceans and rivers and ends up as more frequent and heavier rain, all with far-reaching consequences.

Surface water quality

Over recent decades, river and reservoir water quality has improved. An increase in natural and human-sourced nutrient levels, stronger regulations and testing together, with less toxic pollution, has seen river water quality steadily improve.

But with climate change and increased river flow, those essential nutrients could be diluted and flushed out, as well as higher temperatures changing natural chemical reactions and processes. But it’s unknown at the moment how river water quality and its ecosystems will react to these changes.


Groundwater quality

Again, thanks to heavily reduced pollution levels, groundwater quality has improved in general. However, agricultural pollution and runoff still count for high levels of nitrates that seep through the land and into certain deep underwater aquifers which could affect water quality.

According to the British Geological Survey (BGS), “Groundwater nitrate concentrations in some locations are now high and are often approaching, or have already exceeded, statutory limits for drinking water. Nitrates in groundwater at many sites show seasonal variations with the highest concentrations during the winter and spring, corresponding to high water levels. Climate change is likely to affect nitrate leaching to groundwater.”

Thirsty Work water quality

Climate change does and will continue to affect water quality. And while water companies across the UK test and treat all surface and groundwater so it’s 100% safe to drink right from the tap, our own Thirsty Work groundwater spring in Shropshire continues to provide the clean and naturally filtered water we use with all our bottled water coolers.

And with 4.2mg/l (mg per litre), the nitrate levels found in our spring water are well within acceptable EU Directive 91/676/EEC thresholds which are set at 50mg/l. You can also read more about our water’s natural mineral content.

Thirsty Work will continue to improve our environmental standards in every aspect of what we do to help reduce the effects of climate change, while continually testing and monitoring our groundwater spring water quality. If you’d like any further information on our spring water or you want to start your free, 10-day water cooler trial so you can taste the water quality for yourself, call our team today on 01392 877 172 or email