China plans glacier-water reservoirs

As the effects of climate change increase, China intends to build 59 reservoirs to collect water from its shrinking glaciers, the Guardian reported. In the far-western province of Xinjiang, where many of the earth’s highest peaks and widest ice fields are found, China aims to catch and store glacial run-off that might otherwise trickle into the desert.


Plans for the 10-year engineering project come as China seeks to adjust seasonal water levels and to address a longer-term concern – that downstream city residents will run out of drinking water when the glaciers in the Tian, Kunlun and Altai mountains disappear.


To deal with the consequences of melting glaciers, Xinjiang province will set aside 200 million yuan (about US$30 million) for each of the next three years. In the first phase of the project, 29 reservoirs will be built with a combined capacity of 21.8 billion cubic metres of water, according to the Xinhua news agency.


With the highest average summer temperatures in China, Xinjiang is particularly dependent on a steady supply of meltwater from glaciers, which store precipitation in the winter and release it in the summer.


Over-exploitation of river systems and oases has exacerbated China’s water problems. In terms of glacial melt, the worst affected area in China is the Tibetan plateau.


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