Water Security and the Hydric Potential of Andean Cryosphere.
In dry regions, millions of people depend on freshwater provided by the
mountain cryosphere. Its likely depletion would make productive land-use
management and access to water supply an even more urgent priority.
Therefore water-security-oriented policies increasingly rely on solid
information feedbacks for projections provided by Earth Sciences.
Nevertheless, this type of research still has a lot to understand
regarding headwater catchment hydrology, the top global “water
towers.” For example, there are many theoretical and logistical
uncertainties: “data deserts” in isolated areas, outdated legislation,
or scarce research funding. Yet, one more important issue to highlight
is the evolving nature of hydric resources, particularly where baselines
have a large uncertainty and supply to many as in dry regions in the
Andes or the Himalayas. The main concern here is the legislative
inadequacy for evolving hydric resources as their baselines change. For
example, groundwater within transboundary or paleowater aquifers could
have unaccounted climate-sensitive recharge sources (e.g., permafrost
thaw). Hence, the specific way of legislating mountain groundwater could
turn ambiguous and useless. By reviewing particular legislation and
landing the discussion on study cases in mountainous areas, we commit to
showing the inadequacy of current legislation on hydric-potential
evolution. Overall, water-security-oriented legislation will not assess
and protect headwater catchments within the spectrum of different
recharge processes throughout different hydroclimatic zones. First, the
“evolving value” of specific catchments changes the nominal priority
and purpose for protection. Secondly, a consistent failure to assess
incommensurable (latent), climate-sensitive fractions of water supply
structure is also found. Therefore, the policy recommendation is to use
a hydric scale absorbing all nested processes necessary for hydric
supply to persist, requiring defining a lifespan for legislation.