Researchers at the University of Alberta are undertaking a new project to explore how melting glaciers will affect current and future quality of drinking water in Western Canada. When flows in these rivers begin to decline, the region’s farmers could face a crisis. It affects production of hydroelectricity. Across the Tibetan Plateau and in the Himalayan and Karakoram ranges, the glaciers number in the thousands and the people who rely on them in the hundreds of millions, along rivers like the Indus in Pakistan, the Ganges and Brahmaputra in India, the Yellow and Yangtze in China and the Mekong in Southeast Asia. They supply some of the drinking water for the region’s two million people and irrigation water for fields of corn and other crops outside the city. He knows it would help conserve water, and the government tells him that is important in an era of climate change. The less ice there is, the less water there is for human use, whether it's for drinking, hydroelectric generation, or irrigation. The less ice there is, the less water there is for human use, whether it's for drinking, hydroelectric generation, or irrigation. They are never static, accumulating snow in winter and losing ice to melting in summer. As the Rocky Mountains warm, reduced winter snows are melting earlier in spring and summer, which can lead to a reduction in water supplies for drinking, irrigation, and hydropower production in key power-producing areas like the Columbia River basin in the Pacific Northwest. “And how we use the water is determined by society.”. With the end of melting still a couple of months off, parts of the Tuyuksu were already about three feet thinner. There is not much incentive, or money, to install improvements like drip irrigation that would save water and improve productivity. Now, reaching the ice requires scrambling on foot for the better part of an hour over piles of boulders and till left as the glacier retreated. Some of the water from these glaciers eventually becomes the Little Almaty River. Peak Meltwater and glacier recession under a warming climate. He’d like to install drip irrigation on some of his fields. In Central Asia, a warming climate is shrinking the Tuyuksu glacier. With colleagues from the Kazakhstan Institute of Geography, Dr. Shahgedanova has made the slow trip from Almaty, 15 miles to the north and nearly two miles below, lumbering up a steep, rutted mountain road in a giant Russian utility vehicle. The research team has set up 14 sampling stations from the Columbia icefields into three main watersheds in Alberta: the Bow River, the Athabasca River, and the North Saskatchewan River, which provide drinking water for Calgary and area, Northern Alberta, and Edmonton and area, respectively. Determining the mix of water sources is important for forecasting how the rivers will fare over time. “There’s an annual input and return from those glaciers, like a bank account,” says Mark. Now, looking at a stake nearly a year later, Nikolay Kasatkin, one of the institute researchers, and Dr. Shahgedanova saw that more of the wood was visible. This great global melting contributes to sea level rise. But as the world’s glaciers continue to melt and shrink, over time there will be less water to sustain the communities that have come to depend on that meltwater. Over the last four decades they’ve lost the equivalent of a layer of ice 70 feet thick. They are old, run-down and inefficient. Credit: Wikipedia. A first of its kind study from the University of British Columbia has found that melting glaciers will bring water shortages to one in four people living in Alberta. The Sno bottle itself is a beautiful work of art and has been awarded for it's design. It is the first interdisciplinary research collaboration of its kind to take on such a robust and multifaceted investigation of the origin of these systems: glaciers in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The world’s roughly 150,000 glaciers, not including the large ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, cover about 200,000 square miles of the earth’s surface. On a summer day in the mountains high above Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, the Tuyuksu glacier is melting like mad. Other sources include thawing areas of frozen ground, or permafrost, and huge piles of rock fragments and ice that dominate the landscape below many glaciers. As one of the longest-studied glaciers anywhere, the Tuyuksu helps gauge the impact of climate change on the world’s ice. But it is expensive. Project takes a multifaceted look at water sources in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Jennifer Pascoe and Katie Willis - 11 December 2019. “Now that they’re melting, there is the potential that DDT will be released into the drinking water.”. But global warming is causing glaciers there and around the world to shrink every year. Dr. Shahgedanova and other researchers analyze water samples to determine the mix of sources. Most of them are getting shorter, too. This research is conducted in collaboration with Alberta Environment and Parks and Parks Canada. Most farmers now take whatever water they need, without having to account for how much they use. Many canals and ditches are lined with earth, not concrete, so water leaks from them. Either way, Dr. Lutz said, “the total sum of water you get from the mountains is likely to increase until about the 2050s.”. Maps by Jeremy White. In six decades, it has lost more than half a mile. “We’re talking the next 20 years or so.”. In the mountains of Kazakhstan, the decline may start sooner. This project is part of theCanadian Mountain Network (CMN), hosted by the University of Alberta, which was named a Networks of Centres of Excellence earlier this year. “DDT that was used back in the 1950s has been deposited in these glaciers and locked in the ice,” he said. At the road’s end sits a Soviet-era research station that, like the Tuyuksu itself, has seen better days. JAN. 16, 2019. But like many aspects of the natural world, they are becoming increasingly threatened by the consequences of human industry and activity. “At some point they cannot produce the water they are providing right now,” said Matthias Huss, a researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. What’s happening in the mountains of southeastern Kazakhstan is occurring all over the globe. Glaciers are a crucial element of the world's ecosystem. They take regular flow measurements to record how streams change. Today, the main reason glaciers have begun to melt is because of human activity. But global warming is causing glaciers there and around the world to shrink every year. On the glacier, researchers maintain an array of measuring stakes planted in holes in the ice. But more efficient water management is what Kazakhstan needs to prepare for the days when the flow from glacier-fed rivers starts to drop off. “So every farmer needs to think about his money, so if tomorrow we don’t have this water, what will we do.”, Mr. Gorbatuk’s situation is a reminder that, as Dr. Huss put it, “declining waters from glaciers or mountains in general do not necessarily need to be a problem.”, “It’s rather a question of how we use the water,” Dr. Huss said. Increasing droughts together with industrial poisoning of our water by numerous manufacturers and commercial interests, there is less and less potable water available to drink. But here in the Tien Shan, the biggest impact may be on the supply of water for people and agriculture. 2 Minute Read. That’s adding urgency to the researchers’ work. As these glaciers contain more water (69%) than all the earth’s rivers and lakes together (.3%) it is a tempting thought that we might be able to ferry water from icebergs to different countries. The 20,000 year old glacier, Eyjafjallajokull is the source of the water. Designed and produced by Matt Ruby and Claire O'Neill. A new project underway at the University of Alberta will provide never-before-seen insight into the current and future quality of drinking water in western Canada, with a focus on how the melting glaciers will affect these systems.. JAN. 15, 2019. “The headwaters in these proglacial systems are not well understood. The team of scientists includes Maya Bhatia, assistant professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences andCAIP Chair in Watershed Science; Vincent St. Louis, professor in the Department of Biological Sciences; and Suzanne Tank, assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and CAIP Chair in Aquatic Ecosystem Health, as well as Mark Poesch, associate professor in the Faculty of Agricultural Life and Environmental Sciences.