Two Billion People Rely On Snow For Drinking Water, And Supplies Are Melting

Nov 23, 2015

By Mary Beth Griggs

A lack of snow is bad for skiers, but it’s even worse for our future. Earlier this year, a study found that the snowpack in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains was at its lowest level in 500 years, which is bad news for a state deep in drought, but California is hardly alone.

In a study published in Environmental Research Letters, researchers found 97 drainage basins that depend on snow melt for their annual allotment of water. A drainage basin is any area of land where water drains to a certain point, like a river or reservoir. The researchers examined 421 basins, but focused on these 97 basins because they not only supply fresh water to 2 billion people, but there is also a 66 percent chance that the snow available to those basins would decline in the coming years.


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4 comments on “Two Billion People Rely On Snow For Drinking Water, And Supplies Are Melting

  • It is actually worse than the loss of snow caps as dry season reservoirs of drinking and irrigation water, because with a warning climate, snow which would have been stored for months in mountain snowcaps, will fall as rain, melt pre-existing snow, and come down the valleys as floods.

    In low deltas, the flood waters could also meet rising sea levels and tidal surges from more powerful storms.



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  • High mountain snows are also a source of underground water, sometimes accumulated over millions of years. When underground aquifers are overused and not replenished by the annual snow fall, the water level drops. Deeper bores. Stronger more expensive pumps to lift against gravity. Here is a typical consequence of using ground water faster that replenishment rate.

    http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/aug/19/california-sinking-groundwater-pumped-drought



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  • David R Allen
    Nov 23, 2015 at 5:51 pm

    When underground aquifers are overused and not replenished by the annual snow fall, the water level drops. Deeper bores. Stronger more expensive pumps to lift against gravity.

    When this is done in coastal areas with porous strata, (as is happening at present in the Nile delta), seawater makes its way into the aquifers to fill the deficit!



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  • This has been the case in Cyprus Alan. Wells are now pumping out salty water and olive and orange trees have been dying for a while now. A new project is bringing water from Turkey and the water company are trying to ban the use of wells so that the ground water is replenished over a time. The locals see this as a way for the water company to monopolise all the water in the North and are resisting it.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Cyprus_Water_Supply_Project



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