Asia’s Water Supply Endangered by Third Pole Warming

It is well known that warming will deeply affect glaciers and ice at the poles. Many of the effects are observable today and will continue to impact wildlife, people, and their environments. Scientists are now beginning to better understand climate change in cold regions, such at the Andes and the Alps, outside the polar regions of the Arctic and Antarctica.

In a recent news article by Nature, researchers look at the climatological and glacial changes in the ‘third pole’, which encompasses the Himalayas, Hindu Kush, Karakoram and the Tibetan Plateau. They also consider the need for enhanced monitoring of the glaciers and water supply, to help scientist better understand the extent of glacier retreat now and in the future.

Third Pole Water in Sustaining Asian Societies

The Ganges river flows through India and Bangladesh. It is one of the most sacred rivers in Hinduism, and millions rely on its water for daily life. (Source:

The third pole is one of the major freshwater resources in Asia. Meltwater from glaciers feed into some of the major rivers in Asia, including the Ganges, Yangtze, and Brahmaputra rivers. According to the article, these river basins provide critical freshwater resources to about one-fifth of the world’s population.

Water is inextricably linked to the rise of Asian societies, bestowing them with rich agricultural output and ensuring stability and longevity in a sometimes brutal climate region.The struggle for water in modern history is a global story… But nowhere has the search for water shaped or sustained as much human life as in India and China” says Sunil Amrith in a feature by Quartz India.

A dependable, predictable supply of meltwater is the pillar upon which these societies rest. Climate change could topple that foundation. As groundwater and aquifers dry up in India, water resources from glaciers will become even more necessary. Analysts from NITI, a policy think tank in India, said to New Security BeatCritical ground water resources that account for 40 percent of India’s water supply are being depleted at unsustainable rates”. Hydropower is a growing clean and renewable energy resource for many sectors across China, and irrigation plays a substantial role in crop production for rural communities. The loss of glaciers and rivers could mean dire economic impacts on these regions.

Projected Changes in Climate and Peak Water

Climate patterns over the third pole are now shifting. As temperatures rise and glaciers continue to melt, more glacial lakes will form and river will begin to dry out. The authors cited recent research which indicated that a projected weakening of the annual Indian monsoon will bring significantly less precipitation and snow over the Himalayas. As a result, the current mass-balance of glaciers in the region will be offset by more runoff than snow accumulation.

Many of the world’s highest peaks can be found in the Himalayas, including Mount Everest. This region is considered to be active and prone to tremors, earthquakes, and landslides. Falling ice from glacier melt present an additional natural hazard. (Source: weinkala/Flickr)

The change in mass-balance results in glacier retreat, occurring faster today than historic rates of decline. Eventually, many glaciers will reach their peak water output, with some as early as 2020. Peak water is the level at which glacier melt water output is at its maximum, and it’s considered to be the “tipping point” of water supply. Societies may benefit from the peak water with temporary outflow of more meltwater in rivers, yet the long-term effects will be detrimental.

Although peak water is short-lived, it will be particularly advantageous to some areas projected to experience less precipitation. However, once glaciers reach this level, they will continue to output less and less water. Other regions such as the Andes will also experience peak water, with many glaciers having already have met this max water output level. The loss of glaciers and rivers could be disastrous to dependent societies.

Room for Improvement: Monitoring Retreat and Risks

The authors also wrote about the hazards and risks associated with glacier retreat. Communities living in mountainous regions face with the risk of collapsing debris from glaciers. According to the piece, in October 2018, glacier debris and the resulting landslide dammed the Yarlung Tsangpo River. This led to flooding downstream, affecting regions as far as Bangladesh. According to an article by AGU100, a prompt evacuation prevented any lives from being lost.

Glacial avalanches pose a considerable threat to millions along Asia’s vast network of rivers and streams. According to researchers from the article, only 0.1 percent of glaciers and lakes in the region have monitoring stations, and few high-altitude areas have weather stations. There are plans to install over 20 new stations in the third pole area, which is a big improvement from the current 10 stations in the area. Proper training is necessary to properly operate weather monitoring technology and adequate collection of data.

This map outlines the third pole region, depicting the distribution of monitoring stations, as well as some major glaciers and river networks. (Source: Gao et al./Nature)

The study also prioritized the importance of sharing this data with global and regional climate models, and making the needs of the local people central in climate change discussions. It is imperative that the changes in the third pole to be globally recognized, to better serve local communities and societies in safeguarding water security and cultivating sustainability.

A Survey of the UNESCO Andean Glacier Water Atlas

UNESCO recently published a report which addresses the effects of global warming on the glaciers of the Andes. The Andean Glacier and Water Atlas examines the changing climate patterns across western South America, as well the historical and projected rates of retreat of important glaciers in the region. Increased melting will impact societies reliant on glaciers for water resources. The eventual loss of glaciers presents a challenge for countries to address.

An aerial view of the Ojo del Albino glacier in Argentina (Source: Andrew Shiva/Wikimedia Commons)

The Andes are the longest continental mountain range in the world, spanning the western edge of South America through several countries. These mountains are considered to be the water towers for the surrounding populations. They provide water to about 75 million people living within the Andes region and 20 million downstream along surrounding rivers. The Andes continue to have a significant influence on local cultures and economies. The impending loss of these glaciers may cripple dependent communities, industries, and various sectors across South America.  

Key Messages and Future Projections

The atlas identifies several key messages essential for discerning the changes in the Andes. Projections indicate that temperatures in the tropical Andes could increase between 2°C and 5°C by the end of the 21st century. The recent IPCC SR1.5 report emphasized the devastating effects of just 1°C of warming, such as extended periods of drought and extreme global heat events. The Andes will likely experience increasingly hotter years with warming driving further glacier retreat.

The report notes that changes in precipitation are harder to project than temperature changes. Nonetheless it presents serious concerns for some regions across the Andes. The atlas refers to the IPCC for precipitation projections. In the southern Andes region, precipitation will greatly decrease by the end of the century, including Chile and Argentina in particular. These regions will likely experience drought events, and loss of glaciers may be devastating to the environment and its people.

Scientists have also observed rapid retreat in glaciers in the tropical Andes, as well as lower-altitude glaciers. According to the atlas, one glacier which remains in Venezuela will likely disappear by 2021. Many large tropical glaciers exist in Peru, including Quelccaya Ice Cap, which may disappear by 2050 at the current rate of warming. Glaciers are also quickly retreating in Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. This retreat and volume loss of glaciers is “locked in,”and glaciers will continue to retreat no matter what. Even with a moderate level of emissions, the IPCC projects that barely a fifth of the glaciers will remain by the end of the century, with some reduced to barely 3 percent of their current size.

Pico Humboldt, the second highest peak in Venezuela, is home to the country’s last glacier (Source: Okty/Wikimedia Commons)

Impacts of Retreating Glaciers

The loss of glaciers and glacial meltwater is inevitable. As warming continues, a majority of glaciers will soon experience “peak water” (which occurs when melting exceeds new mass accumulated by snowfall), likely within the next 20 years. Many tropical Andes glaciers already reached peak water in the 1980s and have been outputting less water since. Although many countries will benefit from peak water, the aftereffects of less meltwater outflow will heavily strain the available water supply.

Bolívar Cáceres, a specialist of the tropical Andes who worked on the atlas, told GlacierHub about some of the effects of glacier retreat and possible methods for adapting to water scarcity. “One of the indirect effects of long-term melting in communities is the reduction of visitors. Since glaciers no longer exist in some places or become very difficult to climb, tourists are currently opting out and most likely will go to other places in the future,” he said. This will affect local economies that depend on tourism flow and the resources generated. As for adaptation, Cáceres believes that promoting technologies in agriculture and livestock areas to better manage water resources is essential for sustainability.

Water quality will also be affected by the loss of glaciers. Bryan Mark, an expert on Andes and Peruvian glaciers, added: “Recently glacier-free landscapes feature lots of unconsolidated materials that tend to result in more sediment laden, erosive, and ‘flashy’ discharge streams.'” Sediment pollution presents a number of problems for the water supply, including degrading the quality of drinking water for locals and their livestock. Mark also highlighted the importance of diversifying water reservoir resources, utilizing groundwater, small dams, and precipitation capture as alternate water resources.

Vibrant houses and high-rises in the Andean city of La Paz, Bolivia (Source: Matthew Straubmuller/Flickr)

Efficacy and Practicality of Policy Recommendations

The atlas examines the significance of glacier retreat on communities. It provides policy recommendations for countries to sustainably secure future water availability. Some examples include implementing preventative measures for natural glacier-related hazards and developing climate services for water resource management. Although these recommendations are intended to provide direction towards sustainable water supply management, there are concerns of clarity, implementation, and effectiveness of these policies.

Dirk Hoffmann, an expert on glaciers in high mountain ecosystems, commented on the effectiveness of the policy recommendations on communities. “The policy recommendations are all very interesting, but on the whole seem to be somewhat too general as to be useful to specific decision maker,” he said. Hoffmann views the recommendations as well intended and believes the atlas to be effective in raising awareness of these issues. In a practical sense, however, they are too far removed to help decision makers, he said. A clear indication as to whom these recommendations are directed towards would be beneficial.

Deeply entrenched valley below the tree line, with a small town at the river’s edge (Source: UNESCO)

Mark Carey, an expert of the Peruvian Andes, shared similar thoughts on the effectiveness of these recommendations. Carey stated that the lack of social science and humanities research on vulnerability and unequal impacts of shrinking glaciers is an issue. “Vulnerability is framed in ways to conceptualize homogenous ‘affected populations,’ such as those in agriculture or urban areas, rather than understanding the complicated social divisions and power imbalances embedded in the diverse social groups,” he said. Carey added that although the science is necessary, the complex human dimensions of climate change adaptation are essential.  

The Andean Glacier and Water Atlas recognizes the importance of improving interactions between science and policy, bringing awareness of key issues surrounding the loss of glaciers in the Andes. This is a major step towards successful adaptation; climate scientists, social scientists, and policymakers will need to collaborate to effectively allocate resources for sustainable management of the challenges associated with glacier retreat.

After ‘Peak Water,’ the Days of Plenty Are Over

In a recent paper in Science of The Total Environment, a team of Chinese researchers created a model of the Urumqi No. 1 catchment in Xinjiang, China, and made a surprising discovery. As they sought to estimate the effects of global warming on glacier thinning, retreat and local supply of water resources, they found that the glacier is expected to reach “peak water,” with runoff shrinking by half of its 1980 extent in the next 30 years. The glacier will also lose approximately 80 percent of its ice volume.

As glaciers shrink, runoff increases (with more melting) but then decreases thereafter when the size of the glacier has permanently decreased. Peak water, or the tipping point of glacier melt supply, when runoff in glacier-fed rivers reaches the maximum, is estimated to occur around 2020. This phenomenon shares its concept with the term “peak oil,” which refers to the hypothetical point in time when the global oil production rate will reach maximum capacity. Thereafter, oil production will only decline.

Urumqi No. 1 Glacier on GlacierHub
Urumqi No. 1 Glacier (Source: Far West China/Pinterest).

In contrast to peak oil, glacial reserves can be estimated with a higher certainty. Annina Sorg, an independent researcher with expertise in geomorphology, geography and climatology, explained the concept to GlacierHub. “Peak water for a catchment can be assessed with quite good precision if the past climate and glacial volume loss are well known and if reasonable climate models are being used,” she said. This is because, unlike oil, consumption of glacier meltwater does not have a direct impact on glacial melting. Glaciers will continue to melt no matter if the demand for glacial meltwater is high or low.

“Peak water is an important aspect of glacial impact of hydrology, and the term absolutely makes sense,” Matthias Huss, a senior lecturer from the University of Freiburg, expressed in an interview with GlacierHub. “After peak water, annual runoff sums from glaciers will be steadily decreasing, which might cause problems with water availability.”

Huss’s team recently published a paper on the first complete global assessment of when peak water from glaciers will occur. Huss believes the smaller scale study on the Urumqi glacier uses a very similar approach as he did for all 200,000 glaciers globally but with more accurate data for calibration and validation to fit the local context. Both studies also yield consistent findings.

In the arid regions of Central Asia, meltwater from glaciers determine streamflow. Glaciers are not only valuable water sources for the communities around rivers, but can also serve as buffers against droughts during dry periods.

“Conditions are ‘good’ before peak water— we even have more water than in the case of balanced glacier mass budgets. This water can be used for irrigation or hydropower production. However, after peak water, less water is available, most importantly in the summer months, which might have considerable impact on water resource management,” Huss warned.

Urumqi River on GlacierHub
Urumqi River that is fed by the Urumqi No. 1 Glacier (Source: Remote Lands/Pinterest).

The story is also more complex in a broader context. Whether water shortage is experienced due to glacier recession strongly depends on the climate regime. In general, glaciers play a more important role when summer climates are dry, as in the case of Xinjiang. Peak water also strongly varies with glacier size, with larger glaciers experiencing later peaks than smaller glaciers.

“As Urumqi Glacier is a relatively small glacier, it might not be fully representative for regional peak water, which is governed by the larger glaciers,” Huss explained.

Still, Sorg holds the view that the abundance of meltwater before peak water “might slow down a society’s attempts to elaborate mitigation measures, which would be needed to handle the second period of decreasing meltwater runoff.”

In the case of Xinjiang, runoff from glacier melting will likely experience a dramatic decrease from 2020 to 2050, post peak water. The east and west branches of Urumqi No. 1 Glacier also have different responses to climate change. By the end of the 21st century, as compared to 1980 rates, the area extent and ice volume of the west branch could decrease by up to 58 and 82 percent, respectively. While at the east branch, glacier area could shrink by 95 percent, losing about 99 percent of its ice volume.

Urumqi Glacier Change on GlacierHub
Predicted Glacier Area Changes in 2030, 2050, 2070 and 2100 based on RCP 4.5 and 8.5 (Source: Gao et al).


“In my opinion, it is important to spread the term ‘peak water,’ also in popular media, not science alone. It draws awareness to the point that the depletion of glacial reserves is not a continuous process like emptying a bathtub,” Sorg told GlacierHub. Rather, peak water is a period of abundance that Sorg thinks is probably not appreciated enough and is taken for granted.

Sorg concluded with a somber reminder. “After peak water, the days of plenty are over— at least in respect to glacial meltwater availability,” she said. As Xinjiang is very dependent on its glaciers, mitigation measures are required to adapt to glacier mass changes for long-term water security in the region.

Increased Discharge in the Tianshan Glacierized Watersheds

Western Tianshan Mountains in Xinjiang, China, overlooking the glacier-fed Sayram Lake (Source: Jaymar Alvaran/Creative Commons).

In the arid and semi-arid regions of Central Asia, including western China, the glaciers of the Tianshan Mountains are an important water source for the inhabitants of the area. But accelerated glacier retreat is an unfortunate product of the changing climate, and the Tianshan glaciers are no exception. A recent study published in Hydrological Processes by Chinese scientists Min Xu, Hao Wu and Shichang Kang explored how the glacierized watersheds of the Tianshan Mountains have changed over almost 60 years.

Home to some 8,000 glaciers and spanning across approximately 7,200 square kilometers, the Tianshan Mountains are among the largest mountain systems in the area as well as a “water tower” of Central Asia. According to the study, the snow and glaciers yield 40 to 70 percent of the total river discharge of the region, feeding the water that supplies approximately 50 million people in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, northern Tajikistan, and the Xinjiang province of western China. The researchers used non-parametric tests and wavelet transforms to assess the changes of temperature, precipitation, discharge, glacier volume and runoff of six various watersheds of the Tianshan from 1957 to 2004, ultimately examining how different rivers have responded to climate change.

The study concluded that the glacierized region of the Tianshan Mountains has undergone significant change in the past several decades and that “regional climate warming was obvious.” Additionally, they found patterns in the results. For temperature, “the warming trend increased gradually from east to west, and the increase in temperature was greater on the north slope than on the south slope,” according to the paper. The results mentioned similar patterns for precipitation. From the eastern to central region, the trend increased but was followed by a trend decrease from central to western. However, despite the decline, the value in the west was still higher than in the east. As for the discharge, it also generally increased from east to west. Lead scientist Min Xu explained to GlacierHub that the main reasons for the differences in trends across the regions are the variations in precipitation and glacier area, which are generally larger in the west. This pattern reflects the predominant atmospheric circulation, which comes from the west; the moisture-bearing winds deposit the largest amount of precipitation on the first mountains which they encounter.

Image of the Tianshan Mountains (Source: travelingmipo/Creative Commons).

One of the significant concerns regarding the increase in glacier discharge is how the waters supported by Tianshan Glacier meltwater stand concerning the peak water value—as glacier retreat advances, rivers first carry more water, reflecting the more rapid melting, but then later have lower flow, because the glaciers are depleted.

Although this study does not address the concept of peak water directly, it does report on three highly relevant points. First, there is an overall upward trend across the six discharge locations. These results thus indicate that the calculated trends are currently pre-peak value. Second, the patterns do vary from river to river depending on the geography. For instance, where the exact position is in the mountains. Additionally, where on the individual mountains, whether the north or south slope or high or low elevation. These differences demonstrate the variability in predicting peak value. And third, not all glaciers are melting at similar rates and react to climate dynamics differently. Many higher glaciers have remained relatively stable regarding discharge variability. But scientists do expect even the upper glacier watersheds to exhibit more substantial fluctuations as glaciers will shrink under a warming climate.

Such a phenomenon will have broad ramifications across the region. “Changes in the spatial and temporal distribution of water resources due to climate change will lead to unbalanced developments in the productivity of the region, which would aggravate discrepancies of the economy,” glaciologist Shiqiang Zhang of Northwest University in China told GlacierHub. “It is very important to evaluate the fluctuations of glaciers and water resource changes on the watershed scale under the changes in climate, which not only provides references for assessing the changes of water resources in future, but also provide important suggestions for water management in Central Asia.”

Image of a glacier-fed river feeding into Ala-Kul Lake deep inside the Tianshan (Source: Journeys On Quest/Creative Commons).

Hongkai Gao, postdoctoral research associate at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University, shared his remarks on the importance of the study. “It is essential to study runoff changes of glacier-fed watersheds in different climatic regions of the Tianshan Mountains,” Gao told GlacierHub. “This study helps us to gain a better understanding on the recent changes in the Central Asian ice cover with regard to the ongoing climate change and for the assessment of the contribution of the glaciers’ meltwater to the total runoff.”

However, the concerns go beyond Central Asia. “The hydrological implications of climate change are a global concern,” Xu told GlacierHub. Melting glaciers across the world face changes in discharge and face peak water value. Once this peak water value has passed, “water resources are expected to diminish in glacier-fed watersheds, and significant economic and societal impacts are expected in peripheral regions,” Xu elaborated. “Therefore, we evaluate the fluctuations of glaciers and water resource changes on the watershed scale under the past climate change. This work will help us to understand the changes of runoff in future climate change and provide the references for adopting policies for water resource management.”

Adopting sustainable water resource policies now could partially offset the potential threat towards local peoples’ livelihoods and well-being to occur in the decades to come as a result of melting glaciers. Researching and understanding the trends, as these scientists did for the Tianshan, is the crucial first step to making effective policies.

Peru Faces Tensions Over Water

Pastoruri, Peru. Image by Taco Witte/Flickr
Pastoruri, Peru. Image by Taco Witte/Flickr

Peru will face a “new normal” as greater agricultural and energy demands, population growth and climate change chip away at what is left of its glaciers, according to a recent article in the Yale Journal of International Affairs. Glacial retreat could ultimately lead to conflict in the country, the author found.

“Peru offers an early view of the challenges mountainous regions worldwide may face in coming decades,” wrote Peter Oesterling, the author. “The country—if successful—may also provide the world a model for effective policies to mitigate threats to environmental and human security.”

For people in Peru, glaciers are the essence of their existence. Most people live on the west coast, an arid region, and rely on glacier meltwater for day to day use, crops, hydroelectric power and mining. But since the early 1980’s, Peru’s glaciers have shrunk by more than 22 percent. Further loss could lead to increased risk of flooding and water scarcity as well. Already, seven out of nine watersheds in the Cordillera Blanca are already past “peak water,” meaning that the glaciers have passed the upper limit of melt water they can release.

At the same time, water demand in Peru is on the rise as water security dwindles. The population is projected to grow by 35 million by 2020, which will put pressure on the country’s existing land and water resources. Millions of households rely on the  Cañon del Pato hydropower plant on the Rio Santa, but as water availability declines, the plant could lose 40 percent of its power generating capability.

The country’s mining industry also consumes a great deal of water. Eleven percent of Peru’s land is being mined for minerals. In addition to using water for mineral extraction, mining releases contaminated water back into the watershed.

View to Tocllaraju Summit, 6036m. Photo by Twiga269/Flickr
View to Tocllaraju Summit, 6036m. Photo by Twiga269/Flickr

“Peru’s trends in water use and supply are incompatible,” wrote Oesterling. “Glacially-fed rivers are already at emergency levels—insufficient for the country’s agricultural and hydroelectric demands during the dry season.”

The result has been socio-environmental tensions in the country, which have roots in the country’s history. Peru’s government historically cut indigenous communities off their land and limited their access to water resources for the sake of economic development. Still now local populations are dis-empowered and unable to take part in any decision making processes on their land even though they are the first to suffer from water contaminated by mining. Oesterling discusses a protest in which angry villagers blocked a major highways for several days, even though they were physically attacked by police, in order to bring attention to the concerns over pollution from mines.

To prevent future conflict, the country will need better regulatory processes that shifts the responsibility of environmental impact assessments away from private companies and into the hands of government bodies, said Oesterling. Existing regulatory government bodies could also benefit from being strengthened.

“With a sound response that addresses clean water access, environmental protection, and public participation in resource allocation decision-making, Peru can mitigate the effects of glacial recession and acclimate to new environmental realities,” he concluded. “Yet—much like Peru’s water supply—the time for effective action against glacial recession is dwindling—and quickly.”

Peak Water Looms in Central Asia

Satellite image of Tien Shan mountain range
Satellite image of Tien Shan mountain range (Courtesy of WikiMedia Commons)

Glacier mass loss is threatening community livelihoods in Chon Kemin valley, in Central Asia. People in the region “strongly [depend] on glacial melt water for fresh water supply, irrigation and hydropower production…” say Annina Sorg and her coauthors of a paper studying the increased glacial melt in this area and its effect on peak water levels. The study area is of considerable importance, since it contains a number of agricultural villages, and provides water for Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. Originating in Kyrgyzstan and flowing into Kazakhstan, the Chon Kemin is an international river. 

This Central Asian mountain region is located in the Kyrgyz portion of the Tien Shan Mountains very close to the border of Kazakhstan. The researchers used both old and new methodology to project glacier mass loss. They relied on longer than usual time series of past temperature, snow cover and precipitation data from the area, but they “…also downscaled data from phase five of the Climate Model Intercomparison Project CMIP5…”. This downscaling is very unusual for mountainous Central Asia, allowing them to obtain data at a finer spatial resolution than previous research. The unusual data collection was needed to compensate for the decline in weather station data after the fall of the Soviet Union. Experiments were run with the Glacier Evolution Runoff Model (GERM) so that the researchers were able to record “[g]lacier mass balance, basin evaporation and runoff.”

The authors were able to include many inputs into their parameterizations to obtain what they confidently felt was a realistic result. They calibrated their models to have four future climate scenarios, “…dry-cold, dry-warm, wet-cold and wet-warm future climates…,” which gave a wide breadth of possible glacial lifetimes; in this way, they calculated a range of possible dates for the timing of peak water–the point in time when river flow will be at its highest level.  Glacier retreat first leads to an increase of flow, as water stored as glacier ice melts at a higher rate than previously; however, it later leads to a decrease in flow, when the meltwater from the much-reduced glaciers is lower than it had been earlier.

Tien Shan Mountains
Flying Over the Tien Shan Mountains (Courtesy of WikiMedia Commons)

The results showed that there are longer melt season in the Chon Kemin valleys, influenced by warming temperatures and increasing precipitation. The study showed that increased temperatures did not cause a substantial increase in winter runoff, but winter precipitation did increase. This increased snowfall led to even greater, and longer, snow melts in the warmer seasons.

They also found large differences in the scenarios that they ran. In the “glacier friendly” models, the glaciers were able to sustain themselves to roughly less than half their 1955 mass until 2099. In the warmer scenarios, glaciers were gone by 2080. The authors argue that these findings demonstrate the association between a warming climate and increased speed of glacier mass loss. The researchers paid particular attention to the variability of evaporation and how that may play into future glacier mass loss.


The authors argue that peak water is coming relatively soon in this region, either as early as 2020, or near the end of the century, depending on the specific climate scenario. Regardless, peak water levels will be detrimental to the people of the Chon Kemin Valley; signifying the need for further water management programs.

View of Tien Shan mountains in Kyrgyzstan
View of Tien Shan Mountains in Kyrgyzstan (Courtesy of Christoph Schaaf)

The authors offer the solutions of using nearby reservoirs, using less water intensive crops and restructuing irrigation. They allude to the tensions caused by the international boundaries in this area, drawn in Soviet times,  but remain hopeful that this region can come together to solve its impending water shortage. They briefly discuss the region-wide Chu Talas basin agreement as a possible buffer to those political complications.