More melting but less water from glaciers

Dec. 20, 2011 at 6:03 PM
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MONTREAL, Dec. 20 (UPI) -- Glaciers in Peru are retreating at a fast rate, but the volume of water draining from them is decreasing, threatening water supplies, scientists say.

Researchers from McGill University in Canada say glaciers in Peru's Cordillera Blanca are currently shrinking by about 1 percent a year, and that percentage is increasing steadily.

However, for the first time the volume of water draining from the glaciers into the Rio Santa in Northern Peru has started to decrease significantly, researcher Michel Baraer said.

"When a glacier starts to retreat, at some point you reach a plateau and from this point onwards, you have a decrease in the discharge of melt water from the glacier," Baraer said in a McGill release Tuesday.

"Where scientists once believed that they had 10 to 20 years to adapt to reduced runoff, that time is now up," Baraer said. "For almost all the watersheds we have studied, we have good evidence that we have passed peak water."

Millions of people in the region who depend on the melt water for electricity, agriculture and drinking water could soon face serious problems because of reduced water supplies, he said.

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