"Thousands have lived without love, not one without water."
-W. H. Auden-
Freshwater sources are diminishing while the drying up of rivers and lakes has left nomadic tribes with less than adequate sources.
What is causing this?
Indirect human influence via climate change
Because of its landscape, Mongolia's natural distribution of water is not consistent and so water access differs from North to South.
The North had an abundance (now being threatened by climate change) whereas the Southern steppe and Gobi has much less.
Direct human influence
There is no access to wastewater treatment out in the steppe and the quality of water is increasingly threatened by pollutants from animal husbandry and waste disposal as well as mining waste.
There are also plans to build 3 highly water intensive power plants which will extract water from Lake Huvsgal (see below).
Why is climate change affecting water supply?
Global warming is causing increased evaporation which is decreasing surface water resources through desertification. This occurs when the dry lands, typically distinct of the southern region of Mongolia, to expand northwards.
Nomadic pastoralists are not used to such water shortage and their cattle are threatened by lack of waters. Migration to more northern regions have been attributed to water shortages.
Between 1970 and 2007, 887 rivers, 2096 springs and 1166 lakes have dried out.
Lake Baikal from space
Areas most threatened
The Mongol Ecology Centre and The Nature Conservancy have emphasised Lake Huvsgal as paramount to the world's freshwater storage.
This is because Lake Huvsgal acts as a feeder lake to the larger Lake Baikal in Russian Siberia (just north of Mongolia) which provides 20% of unfrozen global freshwater sources - you can see it from space it's that big!
Within the context of Mongolian people the urban heart of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar the only functioning city in country, is going to see threats to its water very soon if there is no global action taken to combat water shortage caused by climate change.
The Asian Development Bank has warned that the impacts of climate change should be taken seriously: