A Lot of Hydro Power Depends on Glaciers, and We All Know What's Happening to Those...

hydroelectric dam image

Image: Creative Commons
When the River Runs Dry
Melting glaciers might seem like good news for hydro power, but that's only in the short term. There might be more water going into rivers now, but what happens when the glaciers are gone? That's a serious problem for countries like Switzerland that get a huge chunk of their power from glacier-fed hydro.
glacier alps photo

Reuters reports:

A study by Lausanne's EPFL technical university forecast a decline to 46 percent by 2035 for hydro from around 60 percent now as precipitation declines and total energy use increases.

In the same way as the Himalayas are "Asia's water-tower," Switzerland is the source of Europe's biggest rivers, supporting agriculture and waterways, and cooling nuclear power stations.

It's not just a problem for the future. It's already happening: "A lack of water for hydropower is already 'critical' in Bolivia, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador, according to the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which also sees risks to water supplies to southern California from the loss of the Sierra Nevada and Colorado River basin snowpack."

Pumped storage can help mitigate things (you pump water up hill when demand is low), but it won't replace all the missing water.

Via Reuters
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