What is climate change?

Climate change is the long-term shift in weather patterns across the world, caused by the releasing of emissions into the air. 

The planet is warming faster than ever, which causes extreme and unpredictable weather.

People feel the impacts largely through water. 

Rising temperatures mean increasingly severe floods, droughts and unpredictable weather patterns across the world, damaging water supplies and sanitation services.

This is a climate emergency, and we need to act now. 

How is climate change affecting us? 

Extreme weather - like droughts and floods - has a huge impact on people. And those in poorer countries are hit hardest. 

1 in 10 people don’t have clean water close to home, so many rely on water from ponds and rivers, just to survive. When these sources dry up during drought, finding water becomes even harder. 

Flooding can be equally disastrous.

1 in 4 people don’t have a decent toilet, so have no choice but to go outside, or use less than adequate pits and latrines. When toilets aren't managed properly, they can overflow. So during flooding human waste can easily contaminate water sources. Disease spreads fast. 

The effects of waterborne diseases such as cholera can have a long-term effect on health and cause death. 

2 billion people already lack safely managed water. The effects of climate change could mean that they will have to endure the additional hardship and uncertainty of worsening floods, droughts and damage to infrastructure and services.

We must build and invest in water services that are fit for the future.

No one should have their access denied to the basic human rights of clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene. These services should be a normal part of daily life for everyone, everywhere – whatever the future holds.

Who is most affected by climate change?

People living in poverty are the worst affected by climate change, despite being the people least likely to contribute to the causes of climate change, such as being responsible for carbon emissions.

They often have the least resilience or infrastructure needed to deal with the effects of climate change. 

Girls and women are disproportionately affected by climate change. Typically responsible for collecting water, they have to queue even longer at water points, or walk even further every day in search of water.

Women collecting drinking water from a ringwell near the Sreepur Tea garden at the Sreepur Tea Estate. They have to walk 10-15 minutes and cross the highway to reach the water spot. Joyenta, Sylhet District, Bangladesh.
WaterAid/ Abir Abdullah
Women collecting drinking water from a ringwell near the Sreepur Tea garden, Bangladesh.

What is WaterAid doing about climate change?

Building resilient water and sanitation services that can withstand more extreme weather is essential for communities.

We all need to take action to stop further climate change. Governments and the private sector especially must address the impact of climate change and that means an immediate increase in investment into adaptation measures.

WaterAid is working with governments and businesses to make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal in a future of climate change.

We work with communities to: 

  • Provide reliable water supplies and resilient sanitation services. 
  • Boost monitoring and management of water resources, and we empower communities to prepare for droughts and be resilient to climate impacts. 
  • Put sustainable water and sanitation solutions at the heart of their response to climate change.

We ask governments to:

  • Recognise that water, sanitation and hygiene are essential to adapting to climate change, and commit to better cross-institutional cooperation.
  • Prioritise planning and finance for water security to mitigate extreme weather events. 
  • Increase investment in climate-resilient water, sanitation and hygiene services, and disaster risk reduction. 

Building resilience to the effects of climate change

Floods and storms made the water in Shila's community in Bangladesh unsafe to drink. It caused widespread sickness. With support from HSBC, we worked with her and the community to introduce a water filtration process which makes it safe for drinking.

WaterAid/ HSBC/ Drik/ Habibul Haque

What can I do about climate change?

Campaign with us

Join our campaigns, sign our petitions, lobby MPs, take action and help us influence governments and their policies.

David Parry/ PA

Make a donation today 

Support WaterAid to help communities with their rights to build resilience to the effects of climate change, through technology and infrastructure.

WaterAid/ Ernest Randriarimalala

March for Water

Join thousands and pledge to walk further than usual in solidarity with those who have no choice but to walk to collect water.

WaterAid/ Georgie Lord