Topic: College of Sciences and Humanities

April 2, 2019

Kirsten Nicholson is leading another trip by Ball State University faculty to the Mount Everest region of Nepal as they continue to help local residents in their search for clean water.

Nicholson, a geological sciences professor, is part of a group who have partnered with Action for Nepal to build a water plant and filtration system to help two small communities in the Sagarmatha National Park of Nepal.

The area has long suffered from tainted water supplies, which come from the glaciers at Mount Everest. These glaciers are contaminated by hundreds of thousands of tourists who visit the mountain range each year.

Led by Nicholson, Ball State University faculty and students have regularly returned to Mount Everest over the last decade expand their research into how extensively human waste left by climbers is contaminating water resources on the world’s tallest mountain.

“We’re going to dig a couple of test wells with a drill on-site now,” Nicolson said. “We’re going to host a couple of community meetings, talk with people about their earthquake risks, and their climate change risks.

“The next thing that they really need to think about is policy. They really need to start thinking about protecting their water recharge zones and not allow tourists and cattle to contaminate the water supplies. They need a long-term strategy for how they’re going to deal with diminishing water resources.”

The water supply issue has grown worse due to global climate change, causing the glaciers to recede, Nicholson said.

“This is about caring about global water resources,” the professor said. “The Himalayas are the tallest water resource in the world, and they’re the first ones to be affected by global warming.

“So, if we can study and document and understand what’s happening there, then we can understand how the whole system is going to be impacted. That’s really important for our future. There’s the basic premise that everyone should care about human life. The second issue is understanding what is happening with climate change and with our water resources, and that’s critical.”

Nicholson said the majority of water contamination in the area is from tourists defecating in what were pristine waters, causing a humanitarian crisis. Her team will spend several weeks in the Nepal community of Phortse, which has about 400 residents, and Lobuche, home to about 50 people.

“Most of the year, it’s beautiful and quiet, but then during tourist season, these communities will have about 20,000 people coming through. And they bring a lot of trash with them.”