Losing Rivers

The Yellow River in China is one of several major rivers losing water quickly due to climate change.

A study released last week by researchers from the Colorado-based National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) found that rivers in some of the world’s most populous regions are losing water quickly as a result of climate change. Large affected rivers include China’s Yellow River, the Ganges in India, West Africa’s Niger and the Colorado in the southwestern U.S.

The researchers, whose study came out last week in the American Meteorological Society’s peer-reviewed Journal of Climate, reported that water loss as a result of global warming combined with the negative effects of damming, irrigation and other profligate water use could mean a threat to future supplies of food and water. They looked at records of river flow in 925 big rivers around the world from 1948 to 2004, finding "significant changes" in about a third of the world’s largest rivers.

"As climate change inevitably continues in coming decades," said Kevin Trenberth, one of the NCAR scientists who worked on the study, "we are likely to see greater impacts on many rivers and water resources that society has come to rely on."

Sources: UCAR; Planet Ark