Water quality during rapid glacier loss

Water is an increasingly valuable and scarce resource due to global population growth, local anthropogenic activity and climate change.  Many populations that rely on threatened water sources are at high risk of their supply being reduced both in quality and quantity.  In the Ancash region of Peru, a large percentage of the population relies on water coming directly from the Cordillera Blanca mountain range, which is home to the highest density of tropical glaciers globally.  Due to climate change, these glaciers are currently receding and because of the local geology, drastic changes in water quality have been observed. Edward Bains, a graduate student at Western Washington University is assessing the sources of water pollution using field measurements and GIS data across major watersheds in the Cordillera Blanca. George Bugess, also a graduate student at Western Washington University, is assessing how heavy metals in the water alter macrobenthic communities and using these organisms as indicators of water chemistry and quality.