Can natural water storage in the Himalayas address future needs in a changing climate?

Freshwater resources provided by the Hindu Kush-Himalayan mountains are a critical ecosystem service to more than 1.3 billion people in mountain and downstream areas, serving for various purposes such as hydropower, irrigation and human consumption. The resilience of freshwater provisioning, however, is highly at risk due to climatic and environmental changes. In this regard, innovative approaches and technologies are needed to enable upstream and downstream populations to better cope with the growing challenges. As the Himalayan environment provides water storage in various forms e.g. snow, ice, natural lakes, wetlands, groundwater, and constructed dams, these become increasingly relevant for sustaining the hydrological regime and freshwater supply in the long term.

Participants of the session will discuss existing and future challenges to freshwater resources provided by the Hindu Kush-Himalayan mountains and will explore potential and opportunities of innovative approaches and technologies aimed at sustaining water availability. Particular focus will be on the role of natural and artificial water storage as an effective long-term measure of adaptation to climate change.

Key aspects of the discussion will be:
• The potential of natural water storage systems in the region for adaptive water resources management e.g. natural wetlands, soil moisture, groundwater aquifers, natural water bodies, and glacial lakes.
• How constructed water storage systems e.g. artificial ponds and tanks, reservoirs, can complement natural systems.
• How to deal with knowledge and data gaps and scientific uncertainties in terms of changes in climatic variables, glacial mass and snow cover, contribution of snow and glacier melting to freshwater resources, and groundwater resources.
• How to address context-specific issues such as changing water availability due to glacier and snow melt, transboundary nature of rivers, and food and energy security.

Geographical scope:

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