ACQWA project assesses climate impacts on quantity and quality of water
More than 100 scientists have completed a project which seeks to assess the vulnerability of water resources in mountain regions such as the European Alps, the Central Chilean Andes, and the mountains of Central Asia (Kyrgyzstan). Declining snow and ice in these regions are likely to strongly affect hydrological regimes in a warmer climate, impact on water availability, and increase competition among economic sectors such as agriculture, tourism or hydropower.
The project aim is to use model results to quantify the environmental, economic and social impacts of changing water resources in order to assess the suitability of current water governance strategies and consider adaptations in order to alleviate the most negative impacts of climate change on water resources and water use.
The results of the project known as ACQWA (Assessing Climate Impacts on the Quality and Quantity of Water) were presented at a conference at WMO headquarters 4 September. The project was conducted by a consortium of 30 partners from 10 countries and coordinated by Prof. Martin Beniston of the University of Geneva. The European Union contributed nearly 6.5 million Euros in funding.
Mountains account for 20 percent or less of continental surface area and yet are the source of more than half the world’s rivers, and 60 percent of surface water, Benniston told the conference. He said the project therefore examined how future shifts in temperature and precipitation patterns, and changes in the behaviour of snow and ice in many mountain regions would change the quantity, seasonality, and possibly also the quality of water originating in mountains and uplands.
“More and more people worldwide affected by water scarcity. Water is one of the key manifestations of climate change,” WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud told the conference. “Water is the ultimate cross cutting issue. It cuts across all sectors of society. We need to work in partnership and share our best knowledge and practices,” he said.
He said the ACQWA project was an important scientific contribution to improved management of water resources and would enhance the research base of the WMO-spearheaded Global Framework for Climate Services. This aims to strengthen the provision of accessible, accurate climate services to meet the needs of users, with priority being given to the water, food security, disaster risk reduction and health sectors.Changes in Water Availability are one of a series of grand challenges facing the scientific community, according to a keynote address from World Climate Research Programme Director Ghassem Asrar. Others include: better understanding of the cryosphere in a changing climate; sea-level rise and regional impacts, especially on coastal megacities; regional climate information; clouds, circulation and climate sensitivity; and the science underpinning prediction and attribution of extreme events.