A group of researchers found that billions of people should prepare and have a backup plan for a world with dwindling water supplies as shrinking snowpacks may trigger worldwide water shortages by 2060.
About 2 billion of people are expected to be the most affected since the northern hemisphere would be the hardest hit, the research team announced last week.
Their data revealed that diminishing snowpacks worldwide will put in danger local water supplies and the communities that rely on them by 2060, from drought-stricken California to war-torn countries of the Middle East.
A joint group of researchers from the U.S. and E.U. found that about 100 water basins that rely on snowpack to replenish will be affected by the decline.
Justin Mankin, senior researcher involved in the study and climate scientist with Columbia University’s Earth Institute, urged water managers worldwide to take measures to face a world that will no longer have snow reservoirs at its disposal.
Researchers found that the world’s largest basins including Shatt al-Arab or the ‘Stream of the Arabs,’ which feeds large areas of the Middle East, Ebro-Duero basin which affects communities in Portugal, Spain and France, and California already depleted northern and central basins are most exposed to the changes.
Study authors argued that these areas are especially sensitive to global warming and its disruptive effect on snowpacks, which act as important sources of fresh water when they melt.
The good news is that large parts of North America, China, Russia, northern Europe and Asia would continue to meet rainfall demand, so that their water reservoirs don’t destabilize.
The recent study was published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
California is already one of the states affected by a prolonged drought. Earlier this year authorities announced that the drought brought a dry winter which left the state’s snowpacks at historic low levels.
In September, a study revealed that Sierra Nevada snowpack hit its lowest level in 500 years. Researchers based their findings on the tree-rings of ancient blue oaks on the mountains. In April, California snowpack was only at 5 percent of what it was supposed to be according to the 50-year average.
Sierra Nevada snowmelt helps the state’s reservoirs to refill and provides about one-third of fresh water supply to entire California, researchers noted.
Amid concerns that similar mega-droughts may expand in other regions, world leaders plan to gather in Paris this month to find new ways of curbing the upward trend in global temperatures on both land and sea.
Image Source: Flickr
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