Importance and vulnerability of the world’s water towers
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Mountains are the water towers of the world, supplying a substantial part of both natural and anthropogenic water demands1,2. They are highly sensitive and prone to climate change3,4, yet their importance and vulnerability have not been quantified at the global scale. Here, we present a global Water Tower Index, which ranks all water towers in terms of their water-supplying role and the downstream dependence of ecosystems and society. For each tower, we assess its vulnerability related to water stress, governance, hydropolitical tension and future climatic and socio-economic changes. We conclude that the most important water towers are also among the most vulnerable, and that climatic and socio-economic changes will affect them profoundly. This could negatively impact 1.9 billion people living in (0.3 billion) or directly downstream of (1.6 billion) mountain areas. Immediate action is required to safeguard the future of the world’s most important and vulnerable water towers.
Immerzeel , W W , Lutz , A F , Andrade , M , Bahl , A , Biemans , H , Bolch , T , Brumby , S , Davies , B J , Hyde , S , Elmore , A C , Emmer , A , Feng , M , Fernández , A , Haritashya , U , Kargel , J S , Koppes , M , Kraaijenbrink , P D A , Kulkarni , A V , Mayewski , P , Nepal , S , Pacheco , P , Painter , T H , Pellicciotti , F , Rajaram , H , Rupper , S , Sinisalo , A , Shrestha , A B , Viviroli , D , Wada , Y , Xiao , C , Yao , T & Baillie , J E M 2020 , ' Importance and vulnerability of the world’s water towers ' , Nature , vol. 577 , no. 7790 , pp. 364-369 . https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-019-1822-y
Copyright © The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited 2019. This work has been made available online in accordance with publisher policies or with permission. Permission for further reuse of this content should be sought from the publisher or the rights holder. This is the author created accepted manuscript following peer review and may differ slightly from the final published version. The final published version of this work is available at https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-019-1822-y
DescriptionThis project was funded as part of the National Geographic Society and Rolex partnership to support a Perpetual Planet.
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