Country for PR: United States
Contributor: PR Newswire New York
Tuesday, December 10 2019 - 07:17
Scientists Rank World's Most Important, Most Threatened Mountain Water Towers
WASHINGTON, Dec. 9, 2019 /PRNewswire-AsiaNet/ --

- Research provides new insight on mountain glacier–derived water resource 
systems, impacting up to 1.9 billion people globally

Scientists from around the world have assessed the planet's 78 mountain 
glacier–based water systems and, for the first time, ranked them in order of 
their importance to adjacent lowland communities, and evaluated their 
vulnerability to future environmental and socioeconomic changes. These systems, 
known as mountain water towers, store and transport water via glaciers, snow 
packs, lakes and streams, thereby supplying invaluable water resources to 1.9 
billion people globally—roughly a quarter of the world's population. 

Photo -

Logo - 

The research, published ( 
) in the prestigious scientific journal Nature, provides evidence that global 
water towers are at risk, in many cases critically, due to the threats of 
climate change, growing populations, mismanagement of water resources, and 
other geopolitical factors. Further, the authors conclude that it is essential 
to develop international, mountain-specific conservation and climate change 
adaptation policies and strategies to safeguard both ecosystems and people 

Globally, the most relied-upon mountain system is the Indus water tower in 
Asia, according to their research. The Indus water tower—made up of vast areas 
of the Himalayan mountain range and covering portions of Afghanistan, China, 
India and Pakistan—is also one of the most vulnerable. High-ranking water tower 
systems on other continents are the southern Andes, the Rocky Mountains and the 
European Alps. 

To determine the importance of these 78 water towers, researchers analyzed the 
various factors that determine how reliant downstream communities are upon the 
supplies of water from these systems. They also assessed the vulnerability of 
water resources, as well as the people and ecosystems that depend on them, 
based on predictions of future climate and socioeconomic changes. 

Of the 78 global water towers identified, the following are the five most 
relied-upon systems by continent:

    - Asia: Indus, Tarim, Amu Darya, Syr Darya, Ganges-Brahmaputra 
    - Europe: Rhône, Po, Rhine, Black Sea North Coast, Caspian Sea Coast 
    - North America: Fraser, Columbia and Northwest United States, Pacific and 
      Arctic Coast, Saskatchewan-Nelson, North America-Colorado 
    - South America: South Chile, South Argentina, Negro, La Puna region, North 

The study, which was authored by 32 scientists from around the world, was led 
by Prof. Walter Immerzeel and Dr. Arthur Lutz of Utrecht University, longtime 
researchers of water and climate change in high mountain Asia. 

"What is unique about our study is that we have assessed the water towers' 
importance, not only by looking at how much water they store and provide, but 
also how much mountain water is needed downstream and how vulnerable these 
systems and communities are to a number of likely changes in the next few 
decades," said Immerzeel. Lutz added, "By assessing all glacial water towers on 
Earth, we identified the key basins that should be on top of regional and 
global political agendas."

This research was supported by National Geographic and Rolex as part of their 
Perpetual Planet partnership, which aims to shine a light on the challenges 
facing the Earth's critical life-support systems, support science and 
exploration of these systems, and empower leaders around the world to develop 
solutions to protect the planet. 

"Mountains are iconic and sacred places around the world, but the critical role 
they play in sustaining life on Earth is not well understood," said Jonathan 
Baillie, executive vice president and chief scientist at the National 
Geographic Society. "This research will help decision-makers, on global and 
local levels, prioritize where action should be taken to protect mountain 
systems, the resources they provide, and the people who depend on them."

To learn more, visit

Photo -

Logo - 

SOURCE: National Geographic Society

CONTACT: Fae Jencks, National Geographic Society,, 
202-807-3921; Tom de Kievith, Utrecht University,