Managing Limited Resources

Part of the Climate Change exhibition.

The Issue: Disappearing Glaciers

Melting ice sheets and sea level rise aren't the only threats from climate change. Glaciers are also shrinking at a rapid rate. These glaciers supply water for millions of people around the globe, so as the glaciers disappear so will water supplies.

The Strategy: Better Monitoring

Heeding the warnings that many glaciers in the Andes Mountains could melt completely in the next 10 to 20 years, international aid groups and scientific institutions joined forces to monitor the glaciers and develop new water management programs in Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia.

Millions of South Americans, from high-altitude villagers who raise alpacas to city dwellers in Lima, Quito, and La Paz, rely on glaciers for water. To better manage what's left, teams of experts will protect watersheds, research drought-resistant crops and develop ways to irrigate more efficiently. Meanwhile satellites will monitor the glaciers from space. Education and outreach efforts will encourage participation by local people.

Many Andean glaciers provide nourishment for crops and pastures as well as drinking water and hydroelectric power to millions of people. But like glaciers around the world, they are disappearing due to climate change. For instance, between 1978 and 2008, the Qori Kalis glacier of Peru (above) retreated by 1.2 kilometers (0.75 mile).