Snowpacks are a major water source for humans, but they may shrink in certain areas as the climate continues to warm up. A new study suggests that snowmelt is likely to occur in several locations in the northern hemisphere and could affect water supplies.
Justin S. Mankin, an earth scientist at Columbia University, and his colleagues looked at 421 drainage basins in the Northern Hemisphere that rely on snowmelt and rainfall. Then, they combined the data with different climate models, according to the New York Times.
They discovered that 97 basins, which hold 2 billion people, depend on snowmelt. They also found that the likelihood that the basins would get less now in the next century was 67 percent.
The research highlights that most basins that depend on snowmelts in the United States are in Northern and Central California along with the drainage basins of the Colorado and Rio Grande rivers. Outside of the U.S., the Ebro-Duero basin and the Atlas basin of Morocco were also categorized as sensitive. Both basins bring water to Spain, Portugal and southern France, according to Value Walk.
The study gives city water managers important information as they decide where to draw water from and how much they should draw. The snowmelt could also require farmers and cities to find other irrigation methods as well as grow fewer intensive crops and recycle water.
Mankin said that managers “need to prepare themselves for the worst outcome.” He went on to say that the public can help save snowpacks by limiting contributions of greenhouse gases.
Mankin and his colleagues shared their findings in the journal Environmental Research Letters.