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Europe is heading towards a severe water crisis

July 29, 2011

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glacier europe water crisis 300x225 Europe is heading towards a severe water crisisImage by flaum (source: stock.xchng)

A recent study by Matthias Huss, glacier expert at the University of Fribourg, confirms that glaciers play a mayor part in providing water for the major rivers in the Alps.

Although we are not really aware of it, as many other regions of the world, Europe depends greatly on melt water from glaciers for fresh water. The Swiss Alps for example are often called the “water towers of Europe”. With sixty billion of cubic meters of water, Switzerland holds an important part of European fresh water, essential for large rivers and overall water management.

Glaciers store water during wet, cold winters in the form of ice and release that ice during hot summer months in the form of fresh melt water.

With the rise of temperatures the glaciers grow smaller every year and the water shortages in Europe during hot summer months are steadily increasing. Between 1996 and 2006 each year nearly one billion cubic meters of water from the glaciers melted. Although an increase in melt water coming from glaciers can be expected until 2050 due to the current trend in temperature rise, this situation is misleading as after that time numbers will rapidly decrease with more drainage in the winter and less in the summer. For some rivers in Europe, this will mean a decrease between 25% and 50% of their current water volume.

According to Huss it’s difficult to predict at what rate and how much glaciers will shrink, “but that glaciers are shrinking drastically is certain. At best, which is unlikely, they will be 70% smaller at the end of the century. At worst, they will be gone.”

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