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Although reliable figures are often missing, considerable detrimental changes due to shrinking glaciers are universally expected for water availability in river systems under the influence of ongoing global climate change. We estimate the contribution potential of seasonally delayed glacier melt water to total water availability in large river systems. We find that the seasonally delayed glacier contribution is largest where rivers enter seasonally arid regions and negligible in the lowlands of river basins governed by monsoon climates. By comparing monthly glacier melt contributions with population densities in different altitude bands within each river basin, we demonstrate that strong human dependence on glacier melt is not collocated with highest population densities in most basins.