Department of Environmental Sciences

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Seminar Abstracts
Environmental Sciences Seminar Abstract            

Tara Troy
Earth Institute, Columbia University

Sustainable water resources are critical to humans for drinking, sanitation, industry and food production. As such, water availability is of significant concern to society. Water resources are currently facing the dual pressures of climate change and population growth; the former may affect supply and the latter demand. Understanding the relationship between climate, surface hydrology, and human water demands is therefore necessary to plan for the coming decades. I use two case studies over the twentieth century that shed insight into how the three interact. The first example focuses on how changes in climate are driving changes in the surface hydrology. Northern Eurasia has experienced significant warming trends during the past century as well as increases in streamflow. Through the use of a numerical land surface model and in-situ observations, I show that the interactions of precipitation and temperature trends during the past century have resulted in changes in the snowpack that then led to the documented increases in streamflow. The second example focuses on the interactions of climate variability and human water demands in the Indus River Basin, the breadbaskets of India and Pakistan. Monsoon rainfall dominates the seasonal cycle of precipitation, but large agricultural water demands occur during the drier winter season, which has led to an overreliance on groundwater pumping to ensure a constant irrigation supply. These two studies shed light on the key interactions between climate, surface hydrology and human demands, which will help to guide water resource planners in coming decades.

Last updated: 04/02/2012