Do glaciers affect people?

Today, glaciers often are tourist attractions in mountainous areas. But glaciers are also a natural resource, and people all over the world are trying to harness the power of these frozen streams.

Glaciers Provide Drinking Water

People living in the city of La Paz, Bolivia, rely on glacial melting from a nearby ice cap to provide water during the significant dry spells they experience.

Glaciers Irrigate Crops

Over a thousand years ago, farmers in Asia knew that dark colors absorb solar energy. So, they spread dark-colored materials such as soil and ashes over snow to promoted melting, and this is how they watered their crops during dry periods. Chinese and Russian researchers tried something similar by sprinkling coal dust onto glaciers, hoping that the melting will provide water to the drought-stricken countries of India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The experiment proved to be too costly, and they have abandoned the idea. But in Ladakh, India, an engineer has successfully created several small, artificial glaciers to provide more water for crops during seasonal dry periods.

In Switzerland's Rhone Valley, farmers have irrigated their crops for hundreds of years by channeling meltwater from glaciers to their fields.

Glaciers Help Generate Hydroelectric Power

Scientists and engineers in Norway, Canada, New Zealand and the Alps have worked together to tap into glacial resources, using electricity that has been generated in part by damming glacial meltwater.