Journal of Arid Land

Article Title

Economic losses from reduced freshwater under future climate scenarios: An example from the Urumqi River, Tianshan Mountains


As important freshwater resources in alpine basins, glaciers and snow cover tend to decline due to climate warming, thus affecting the amount of water available downstream and even regional economic development. However, impact assessments of the economic losses caused by reductions in freshwater supply are quite limited. This study aims to project changes in glacier meltwater and snowmelt of the Urumqi River in the Tianshan Mountains under future climate change scenarios (RCP2.6 (RCP, Representative Concentration Pathway), RCP4.5, and RCP8.5) by applying a hydrological model and estimate the economic losses from future meltwater reduction for industrial, agricultural, service, and domestic water uses combined with the present value method for the 2030s, 2050s, 2070s, and 2090s. The results indicate that total annual glacier meltwater and snowmelt will decrease by 65.6% and 74.5% under the RCP4.5 and RCP8.5 scenarios by the 2090s relative to the baseline period (1980–2010), respectively. Compared to the RCP2.6 scenario, the projected economic loss values of total water use from reduced glacier meltwater and snowmelt under the RCP8.5 scenario will increase by 435.10×106 and 537.20×106 CNY in the 2050s and 2090s, respectively, and the cumulative economic loss value for 2099 is approximately 2124.00×106 CNY. We also find that the industrial and agricultural sectors would likely face the largest and smallest economic losses, respectively. The economic loss value of snowmelt in different sectorial sectors is greater than that of glacier meltwater. These findings highlight the need for climate mitigation actions, industrial transformation, and rational water allocation to be considered in decision-making in the Tianshan Mountains in the future.


glacier meltwater; snowmelt; freshwater supply; water use; economic losses; future climate scenario; climate change; Tianshan Mountains

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