UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Projected local rain events due to climate change and the impacts on waterborne diseases in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada Chhetri, Bimal K; Galanis, Eleni; Sobie, Stephen; Brubacher, Jordan; Balshaw, Robert; Otterstatter, Michael; Mak, Sunny; Lem, Marcus; Lysyshyn, Mark; Murdock, Trevor; Fleury, Manon; Zickfeld, Kirsten; Zubel, Mark; Clarkson, Len; Takaro, Tim K


Background: Climate change is increasing the number and intensity of extreme weather events in many parts of the world. Precipitation extremes have been linked to both outbreaks and sporadic cases of waterborne illness. We have previously shown a link between heavy rain and turbidity to population-level risk of sporadic cryptosporidiosis and giardiasis in a major Canadian urban population. The risk increased with 30 or more dry days in the 60 days preceding the week of extreme rain. The goal of this study was to investigate the change in cryptosporidiosis and giardiasis risk due to climate change, primarily change in extreme precipitation. Methods: Cases of cryptosporidiosis and giardiasis were extracted from a reportable disease system (1997–2009). We used distributed lag non-linear Poisson regression models and projections of the exposure-outcome relationship to estimate future illness (2020–2099). The climate projections are derived from twelve statistically downscaled regional climate models. Relative Concentration Pathway 8.5 was used to project precipitation derived from daily gridded weather observation data (~ 6 × 10 km resolution) covering the central of three adjacent watersheds serving metropolitan Vancouver for the 2020s, 2040s, 2060s and 2080s. Results: Precipitation is predicted to steadily increase in these watersheds during the wet season (Oct. -Mar.) and decrease in other parts of the year up through the 2080s. More weeks with extreme rain (>90th percentile) are expected. These weeks are predicted to increase the annual rates of cryptosporidiosis and giardiasis by approximately 16% by the 2080s corresponding to an increase of 55–136 additional cases per year depending upon the climate model used. The predicted increase in the number of waterborne illness cases are during the wet months. The range in future projections compared to historical monthly case counts typically differed by 10–20% across climate models but the direction of change was consistent for all models. Discussion: If new water filtration measures had not been implemented in our study area in 2010–2015, the risk of cryptosporidiosis and giardiasis would have been expected to increase with climate change, particularly precipitation changes. In addition to the predicted increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme precipitation events, the frequency and length of wet and dry spells could also affect the risk of waterborne diseases as we observed in the historical period. These findings add to the growing evidence regarding the need to prepare water systems to manage and become resilient to climate change-related health risks.

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