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Disappearing glaciers


Water crisis looms as melt water dries up


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The Swiss Alps are warming up and by 2050, experts say small and medium-sized glaciers will have melted away. (SRF/swissinfo.ch)

A study carried out for the Federal Environment Office shows that the outlook is also grim for larger glaciers. The Aletsch – the longest in the Alps, could be reduced to 10% of its present size by the year 2100. The Pro Natura environmental organisation measured the Aletsch ice sheet this summer and found that, from the beginning of June, the glacier had receded by six metres.

Canton Valais, home to 80% of Switzerland’s glaciers, is beginning to suffer from a reduction in melt water. In Salgesch and neighbouring villages, runoff water from the Bietsch glacier is especially important for the region’s vineyards. This year, Salgesch had to cut its irrigation period by a half because of reduced water supplies. This village and nearby communities are now pooling their resources to build a reservoir to conserve spring melt water.

Swiss public television, SRF, took a Pro Natura expert on a helicopter tour of the high mountains in Valais, to find out which glaciers are worst affected.