Water Availability in Central Asia – Vulnerability to Changing Glacier and Snowmelt Runoff Contributions to Central Asian Rivers (GlaSCA)

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    Project Manager :
    Fabrice Renaud

    The main rivers of Central Asia such as the Amudarya and Syrdarya provide the livelihoods of the people living in the semi‐arid region of Central Asia which relies heavily upon the use of the river water, mainly for irrigated agriculture and for hydropower generation. The two rivers originate in the Central Asian high mountains where glacier and snow melt contribute substantially to runoff generation. Global climate change and the observed shrinkage of glaciers in the Tien Shan and Pamir raise the question about the spatio‐temporal variability in glacier and snow‐melt contribution to river runoff and potential changes in the runoff components. The proposed project “Water Availability in Central Asia – Societal Vulnerability to Changing Glacier and Snowmelt Runoff Contribution to Central Asian Rivers (GlaSCA)” aims at establishing an inter‐disciplinary research consortium uniting German and Central Asian scientists from different countries which will (1) address the quantification of the glacier and snowmelt contribution to river runoff in the region and (2) assess the societal vulnerability to changes in runoff amount and seasonal distribution. The initiated collaboration within the consortium will provide a framework for the preparation of a bigger research proposal for a large‐scale assessment of the glacier and snow melt contribution and societal vulnerability for the Aral Sea basin. Focusing on the easily accessible and well‐monitored catchment of the Ala‐Archa River (283 km2) located on the northern slopes of the Kyrgyz Range near Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) an inter‐disciplinary pilot study quantifying glacier melt, snowmelt, groundwater and rainfall contribution to river runoff will be conducted. Furthermore, their temporal and spatial variability using the analysis of stable isotopes and hydrometric measurements will be assessed. Subsequently, hydrological models with the newly gained data and understanding of the processes will be improved. UNU-EHS contributes to the project by developing socio‐ecological vulnerability indices for downstream communities and water users to changes in water availability and variability.