Peru’s arid Rio Santa watershed could find itself facing a serious water shortage, as rapidly melting glaciers are causing a decrease in supply 20 to 30 years earlier than anticipated. The glaciers in the Cordillera Blanca mountain range, which covered some 530 square miles in the 1930s, now cover less than 375, a new study finds. The glaciers are too small to maintain past water flow levels, meaning they will likely be 30% lower than historic levels during coming dry seasons.
Previously, the region was believed to have decades left to adapt to impending water shortages. But the study shows that “those years don’t exist,” the lead researcher tells IPS News. Writes Matthew McDermott on Treehugger, “Pay attention, as this sort of thing could hit other mountainous areas that are dependent on glaciers for their water supply.” He notes that the World Glacier Monitoring Service recently found 90% of the glaciers studied were losing mass, and that USGS blames this on climate change. (Read more glacier stories.)