ACQWA - Assessing Climatic Change and Impacts on the Quantity and Quality of Water

The ACQWA project aims to assess the impacts of a changing climate, focusing on the quantity and quality of water originating in mountain regions, particularly where snow- and ice melt represent a large stream flow component. An increasing number of evidences of glacier retreats, permafrost reduction and snowfall decrease have been observed in many mountainous regions, thus suggesting that climate modifications may seriously affect stream flow regimes, in turn threatening the availability of water resources, increasing the downstream landslide and flood risk, impacting hydropower generation, agriculture, forestry, tourism and, last but not least the water dependent ecosystems. As a consequence, socio-economic structures of downstream living population will be also impacted.
The goal of the project is to use advanced modelling techniques to quantify the influence of climatic change on the major determinants of river discharge at various time and space scales, and analyze their impact on society and economy, also accounting for feedback mechanisms. The focus will be on continuous transient scenarios from the 1960s up to 2050 and on study regions in the Alps (Rhône and Po basins), the Andes (Aconcagua) and the Central Asian region (Kyrgyzstan). The limitation of the modelling horizon to mid of the 21st century allows to develop more realistic assessment of the progressive impact on the social, economical and political systems.
Markus Stoffel acts as the director of this large-scale integrating project with a budget of € 6.5 million and 35 partner universities involving more than 100 scientists. Research activities of the will focus on climate change impacts on mass-movement processes and changes in frequency-magnitude relationships of debris flows, floods and landslides in a future greenhouse climate.


Collaboration: European Union (EU-FP7 project)

Project duration: October 2008 – March 2014

Contact: Markus Stoffel

Web site:


Stoffel, M., Mendlik, T., Schneuwly-Bollschweiler, M., Gobiet, A. (2014): Possible impacts of climate change on debris-flow activity in the Swiss Alps. Climatic Change 122, 141–155. [PDF]

Schneuwly, M., Corona, C., Stoffel, M. (2013): How to improve dating quality and reduce noise in tree-ring based debris-flow reconstructions. Quaternary Geochronology 18: 110–118. [PDF]

Stoffel., M., Butler, D.R., Corona, C. (2013): Mass movements and tree rings: A guide to dendrogeomorphic field sampling and dating. Geomorphology 200: 106–120. [PDF]

Toreti, A., Schneuwly-Bollschweiler, M., Stoffel, M., Luterbacher, J. (2013): Atmospheric forcing of debris flows in the southern Swiss Alps. Journalof Applied Meteorology and Climatology 52(7): 1554–1560. [PDF]

Procter E., Stoffel, M., Bollschweiler, M., Neumann M. (2012): Exploring debris-flow history and process dynamics using an integrative approach on a dolomitic cone in western Austria. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms. 37: 913–922. [PDF]

Schneuwly-Bollschweiler, M., Stoffel, M. (2012): Hydrometeorological triggers of periglacial debris flows – a reconstruction dating back to 1864. Journal of Geophysical Research – Earth Surface 117: F02033. [PDF]

Stoffel, M., Huggel, C. (2012): Effects of climate change on mass movements in mountain environments. Progress in Physical Geography 36:421–439. [PDF]

Beniston, M., Stoffel, M., Harding, R., Kernan, M., Ludwig, R., Moors, E., Samuels, S., Tockner, K. (2012): Obstacles to data access for research related to climate and water: implications for science and EU policy-making. Environmental Science and Policy 17: 41–48. [PDF]

Stoffel, M., Wilford, D.J. (2012): Hydrogeomorphic processes and vegetation: disturbance, process histories, dependencies and interactions. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 37: 9-22 [PDF]

Beniston, M., Stoffel, M., Hill, M. (2011): Impacts of climatic change on water and natural hazards in the Alps: can current water governance cope with future challenges? Examples from the European “ACQWA” project. Environmental Science and Policy 14: 734-743 [PDF]

Bollschweiler, M., Stoffel, M., Schlaeppy, R. (2011): Debris-flood reconstruction in a pre-alpine catchment in Switzerland based on tree-ring analysis of conifers and broadleaved trees. Geografiska Annaler 93:1-15 [PDF]

Stoffel, M., Bollschweiler, M., Beniston, M. (2011): Rainfall characteristics for periglacial debris flows in the Swiss Alps: past incidences – potential future evolutions. Climatic Change 105: 263-280 [PDF]

Stoffel, M., Bollschweiler, M., Widmer, S., Sorg, A. (2010): Spatio-temporal variability in debris-flow activity: a tree-ring study at Geisstriftbach (Swiss Alps) extending back to AD 1736. Swiss Journal of Geosciences 103: 283–292. [PDF]

Lugon, R., Stoffel, M. (2010): Rock-glacier dynamics and magnitude–frequency relations of debris flows in a high-elevation watershed: Ritigraben, Swiss Alps. Global and Planetary Change 73: 202–210. [PDF]

Bollschweiler, M., Stoffel, M. (2010): Tree rings and debris flows: recent developments, future directions. Progress in Physical Geography 34: 625–645. [PDF]

Bollschweiler, M., Stoffel, M. (2010). Changes and trends in debris-flow frequency since AD 1850: Results from the Swiss Alps. The Holocene 20: 907–916. [PDF]

Bollschweiler, M., Stoffel, M. (2010): Variations in debris-flow occurrence in an Alpine catchment – A reconstruction based on tree rings. Global and Planetary Change 73: 186–192. [PDF]

Stoffel, M. (2010): Magnitude-frequency relationships of debris flows – a case study based on field surveys and tree-ring records. Geomorphology. 116: 67–76. [PDF]