The ACQWA Project

The ACQWA Project (Assessing Climate impacts on the Quantity and quality of WAter) is a large-scale integrating project, with 35 partners and a budget of EURO 6.5 million.The project, initiated and coordinated by the University of Geneva, Switzerland, began formally on October 2008.

As the evidence for human induced climate change becomes clearer, so too does the realization that its effects will have impacts on socio-economic systems and terrestrial ecosystems. Some regions are more vulnerable than others, both to expected physical changes and to the consequences they will have for ways of life. Mountains are recognized as particularly sensitive physical environments with populations whose histories and current social positions often strain their capacity to accommodate intense and rapid changes to their resource base.

This proposal aims to assess the impacts of a changing climate, focusing on the quantity and quality of water originating in mountain regions, particularly where snow- and ice melt represent a large, sometimes the largest, streamflow component. There, they represent a local resource (freshwater supply, hydropower generation, irrigation), but in most cases also considerably influence the runoff regime of the downstream rivers and the related water availability. Such an influence is reflected mainly in the amount of surface water available for supplying irrigated agriculture and water supply systems, but also in the amount of groundwater recharge that can take place in river–fed aquifers. An increasing number of evidences of glacier retreats, permafrost reduction and snowfall decrease have been observed in many mountainous regions, thus suggesting that climate modifications may seriously affect streamflow regimes, in turn threatening the availability of water resources, increasing the downstream landslide and flood risk, impacting hydropower generation, agriculture, forestry, tourism and, last but not least the water dependent ecosystems. As a consequence, socio-economic structures of downstream living population will be also impacted, calling for better preparedness in developed countries and strategies to avoid the exacerbation of the already conflictual situation in many developing countries, like those in Central Asia and South America.

ACQWA Assessing Climate impacts on the Quantity and quality of WAter

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