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NEWS: Shrinking snowpack hurts water supply

Barlow speaks in Bolivia on climate and water justice
Barlow speaks in Bolivia on climate and water justice

The CBC reports, “The snowpack across the northern Rocky Mountains has shrunk far more quickly in the past 50 years than in the previous 800, a new study shows. Runoff from those layers of snow feed rivers that supply water to more than 70 million people (in the western United States), raising concerns that the declining snowpack will lead to water shortages in western North America, reported the study published online Thursday in Science Express. …Robert Sandford, chair of a group that connects policy makers with scientific research on water, said the study shows the declining snowpack will add to the gradual decline in stream flows that are already happening in some of Canada’s most important watercourses.”

Postmedia News adds, “(The melting snowpack is) altering river flows in the Canadian prairies and central British Columbia, said (the study’s) co-author Brian Luckman, at the University of Western Ontario. ‘Snowpack is essential for water supply to many of these areas,’ Luckman said, noting that the Rockies feed rivers flowing through central B.C. and the Bow, Athabasca and Oldman rivers in Alberta. ‘Between 60 to 80 per cent of the water in those rivers is snowmelt from the mountains.’ …The study, published Thursday in the journal Science, says the changes are affecting the Colorado, Columbia and Missouri Rivers, which together supply water to 70 million Americans.”

Years ago, Natural Resources Canada stated that in Canada there will be “decreases in water availability resulting from increased intensity and frequency of drought, declining snowpack and glacier dimunition.” NRC says, “Canada’s glaciers hold water resources equivalent to all of the water contained by our lakes and rivers. As a Nordic country, much of Canada’s freshwater is derived from seasonal and perennial snow and ice, which exerts important controls on the timing and magnitude of water fluxes.” And they note, “Glaciers play a role in recharging groundwater aquifers. This aspect of our hydrology is critical to understanding the variability of water supply under a changing climate…”

The Edmonton Journal reported back in 2007 that, “The Athabasca glacier, where the (Athabasca) river originates, has shrunk significantly in the last 70 to 80 years.” That article says, “Research shows that some tributaries to the Athabasca River could dry up if Alberta warms up six degrees (which is expected to occur over time).”

On April 21, 2010, at the Peoples Summit on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Bolivia, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow said, “The issue of glacier melt is where climate justice and water justice come together. Water abuse is hurting the climate, and climate injustice is hurting water. …Water is a human right, but we have to look at the rights of Mother Earth. We cannot separate the two. If we had protected Mother Earth, we would not see the human rights abuses we are seeing now. …The most important thing to remember is that water governs us. It is our lifeblood. It is not a resource for our proift and pleasure, but the most important element of the ecoystem which we depend on for life. …We must build solidarity between the water and climate justice movements, between the global north and south, and among those who care fo the future. We must vow to be one family and be brave because we are up against terrible forces.”