Polluted ground

Changes to the climate, such as increased or decreased precipitation, higher sea levels and higher average temperatures can affect the properties of the land and water.

In polluted land and water areas, altered flows and groundwater levels cause increases in the mobility of pollutants. Higher groundwater levels and more variable groundwater levels result in the majority of substances – including toxic substances – are carried along with the flowing water to a greater extent.

Increased quantities of dissolved and particulate pollutants penetrate the ground and are transported via surface runoff drains, surface water or groundwater into watercourses, lakes and seas.

Higher rates of flow can also entail old and new industrial areas, sewage treatment plants, etc. being inundated. This leads to “pollution shocks” that may have an impact on human, plant and animal life. Areas in which precipitation volumes, groundwater levels and flow rates are expected to decrease may also be affected through changes to the chemical properties of the ground.

Higher average temperatures also tend to increase the mobility of pollutants, for example because the length of time there is ground frost decreases.

More knowledge is required, as are surveys to chart which polluted areas are at risk of being affected by climate change and what effects may be expected. Potential preventative measures include decontamination of polluted areas and interventions to improve stability.