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Himalaya Mountains Face Water Scarcity From Climate Change, Researchers Say

Oct 23, 2015 04:16 PM EDT

The Himalaya Mountains are taking a major hit from climate change, a new study shows. Researchers from Baylor University discovered that climate change along with an increase in agricultural land use and human population growth is reducing the availability of water sources in the Himalaya Mountain basins.

To study the problem, researchers used a sophisticated modeling tool called the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) that allowed them close examination of land use, soil types, topography and meteorology of the area, according to Baylor University's news release.

"This study is very important in a country like Nepal since the research is primarily focused for estimating the effects of potential climate variability and land-use changes on water flow processes of specific Himalaya Mountain systems," Ram P. Neupane, leader of the study and a postdoctoral research associate at South Dakota State University, said in the release. "Water availability has become problematic due to changing climate and land management practices in this region,"

Climate change actually aggravates the impacts of temperature and precipitation in mountain regions. For instance, areas often take a one-two punch when experiencing warming temperatures and reduced rainfall at the same time. These climatic conditions simply dry everything out and prevent farmers from growing crops. This does not bode well for a country where roughly 70 percent of the population is dependent on agriculture, the release explained.

This study allows researchers to predict how future climatic events will affect snowmelt and stream flow, so they can better assess the effects of land use on water availability, researchers noted.

"The Nepalese population in this region will face many challenges over the coming decades as soil degrades and water resources continue to place enormous strains on food production and intensify recent trends of subsequent malnutrition, particularly in young children," Sara E. Alexander, an associate professor of anthropology at Baylor University, added in the release. 

Their study was recently published in the Journal of Hydrology

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