Mountain regions like the Rhône Valley can expect major shifts in temperature and precipitation patterns affecting the quantity, seasonality and quality of water if global warming continues as predicted until 2050, according to a new report.
Temperatures in the Rhône Valley are expected to rise by 0.9 degrees Celsius by 2050, resulting in much hotter springs and summers and wetter winters, researchers from the European Union-funded ACQWA project, led by the University of Geneva, revealed on Wednesday.
There will be less snow in the Alps each year and this will melt earlier than at present – five to ten days with increased melt in April and May for the Rhône Valley, it noted.
The report said there would be a 70 per cent reduction in glacier melt water running into the Rhône Valley by 2050 and a large decrease in summer run-off – 25 per cent in the Rhône and 50 per cent in high catchment areas.
“Investigations suggest a remarkable intensification of extreme precipitation events at the end of the 21st century in Switzerland,” the report said.
Sectors like agriculture, tourism and hydropower may clash if water is no longer available in sufficient quantities at the right time of the year, it added.
“Tools and rules are lacking to be able to properly manage the competition in catchment areas,” declared Geneva University professor Martin Beniston in his speech to the World Meteorological Organisation on Wednesday.
The €8.5 million (CHF10.5 million) five-year research project involved 100 researchers from eight countries.
The project looked at the vulnerability of water resources in mountain regions such as the Alps and the Rhône Valley, the Po River catchment area, the Aconcagua Basin in Chile and the Amu Darya region in Kyrgyzstan.
The main aim of the study was to analyse as accurately as possible future changes to be able to propose adaptation strategies and water governance measures. Mountain regions are the source of two-thirds of all drinking water worldwide.
swissinfo.ch and agencies