In a study released today in the journal Nature Climate Change, researchers found that over 60 percent of hydropower and over 80 percent of thermoelectric power plants would likely be threatened as early as midcentury as climate change makes fresh water scarcer. These types of power plants supply 98 percent of the world’s electricity and use huge volumes of water both to create energy and cool equipment at the plants. The Union of Concerned Scientists visualizes the amount of water used by power plants in one minute as three times the average water flowing over Niagara Falls in the same amount of time.
Decreasing precipitation and acidification already threaten the globe’s fresh water, and a decline in fresh water resources will affect electricity in certain countries more than others—as is always the case with climate change—including the United States, South America, southern Africa, and certain areas in Europe.
According to the paper’s lead researcher, making sure the power stays on could be helped by switching plants over to air or seawater systems: another bullet in the never-ending list towards creating climate resilience.