ABSTRACT

Climate change can affect both surface and groundwater quality. It can particularly affect the diffuse or “non-point” sources of pollution. An increase in extreme events such as warm temperature extremes and heavy precipitation events has been predicted in a number of regions. Ecologically fragile and vulnerable areas such as high mountains, peatlands, acid sulfate soils, and such others could be especially susceptible to the release of heavy metals and metalloids under the effects of climate change. Several studies have found that high-altitude alpine lake waters could receive heavy metals from the erosion of rock glacier ice as a consequence of climate change. Similarly, climate change could also release heavy metals at enhanced rates from peatland wetlands, which are important storehouses of heavy metals. Climate change resulting in warmer, wetter winters and hotter, drier summers along with an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events is likely to trigger enhanced release of heavy metals from peatlands. Prolonged drought and peatland fires are also contributing towards increased erosion of peat and release of toxic metals. Rising sea levels leading to incursion of saline water and rise in salinity is another driver that can increasingly mobilize heavy metals.