Glacial melt in the Himalayas (source:

This week saw a double whammy of bad news for water resources, as research in South Asia and South America gave dire warnings for the future if better water resource management (WRM) was not practised. This is an adaptation issue, particular where melting glaciers are involved, as generally such trends are irreversible.

A UNEP study found that three of South Asia’s largest river basins (Ganges, Indus and Helmand) are highly vulnerable. This could leave millions at risk of increasing water scarcity, as all three basins cover multiple countries. Factors behind the increased scarcity include climate change (Himalayan glaciers receding), overexploitation (aquifers being pumped quicker than they are recharged), and inadequate distribution.

The latter two could be addressed to some extent by better WRM at the national and local levels, but the fact that Himalayan glaciers are melting is a rather more difficult one to solve. A recent Climatico article highlighted the politicization of water currently going on in India in particular, which will not make any WRM negotiations easy.

Another study found it is a similar story in South America, with the tropical Andes facing serious water shortages by the end of this century. Again, the insoluble culprit is receding glaciers, which normally supply the area with meltwater on a seasonal basis. It seems that areas of Peru will be the worst affected in the dry season.

Such predictions have become more common in recent years, as the full impacts of climate change on water resources become apparent. It will be difficult to avoid glacial melting, so countries that will be affected need to come up with comprehensive WRM plans at the earliest opportunity. More adaptation financing may become available for water resources at some point, but for the moment such money is more often available for agriculture and similar sectors.

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