Climate change and rapid urbanization are threatening fragile water resources in Mongolia, where more than half of the inhabitants have no access to clean water, says a report released today by the Mongolia Water Authority and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
According to the 'Urban Water Vulnerability to Climate Change in Mongolia' report, extreme temperatures and natural disasters such as droughts, flooding and heavy snowfalls are becoming more frequent and annual average temperatures have increased by 2.1° Celsius since the 1940s.
According to the report, the Mongolian climate will continue to change dramatically over the next century. Study results are emerging on the likely pattern of this future climate and projections suggest higher temperatures all year round, with more snow in winter and less rain in summer.
'Mongolia's temperature has already risen by more than 2C in the last seventy years. The study's climate scenarios suggest that the country will have to get used to having much less water in the future,' says Dr. Z. Batbayr, Deputy Director of Mongolia Water Authority. 'The impact of this will be seen across the board, through the degradation of the natural environment, ecosystems, and harm to the economy.'
All surface water in Mongolia is covered by ice for about six months a year and so groundwater is the primary source of water supply for major urban and industrial centres and the extensive animal husbandry sector. It is expected that climate change will affect groundwater resources throughout the country.
The effects of climate change have been compounded by rapid urbanization, reducing the availability of water for domestic and industrial use.
The situation is particularly serious in urban areas like the capital of Ulaanbaatar, where nearly 40 percent of the country's population resides and where increasing demand and pollution is exerting added pressure on water supplies, sanitation and other public services, adds the report.