Extreme weather events: Should drinking water quality management systems adapt to changing risk profiles?

Water Res. 2015 Nov 15;85:124-36. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2015.08.018. Epub 2015 Aug 12.


Among the most widely predicted and accepted consequences of global climate change are increases in both the frequency and severity of a variety of extreme weather events. Such weather events include heavy rainfall and floods, cyclones, droughts, heatwaves, extreme cold, and wildfires, each of which can potentially impact drinking water quality by affecting water catchments, storage reservoirs, the performance of water treatment processes or the integrity of distribution systems. Drinking water guidelines, such as the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines and the World Health Organization Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality, provide guidance for the safe management of drinking water. These documents present principles and strategies for managing risks that may be posed to drinking water quality. While these principles and strategies are applicable to all types of water quality risks, very little specific attention has been paid to the management of extreme weather events. We present a review of recent literature on water quality impacts of extreme weather events and consider practical opportunities for improved guidance for water managers. We conclude that there is a case for an enhanced focus on the management of water quality impacts from extreme weather events in future revisions of water quality guidance documents.

Keywords: Climate change; Cyclone; Drought; Flood; Hurricane; Wildfire.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Climate Change
  • Cyclonic Storms
  • Disaster Planning*
  • Disasters*
  • Drinking Water / standards*
  • Droughts
  • Fires
  • Floods
  • Water Purification / methods*
  • Water Purification / standards
  • Water Quality / standards
  • Weather*


  • Drinking Water