The Declining Snowpack and its Effects on Hydropower


The amount of snowpack is constantly dwindling and if nothing is done about it, there will surely be a complete decline within the next few decades. Snowpack is an area of naturally formed snow that accumulates annually in mountainous areas. During the warmer months, the snow melts and fills the multiple bodies of water and replenish the ground water. The water that melts from snow makes up one third of California’s drinking water. Without snowpack, other sources of water would have to be sought out. The loss of snowpack would be detrimental not only to water supply, but to hydropower as well.

Hydropower is electricity generated using the energy of moving water. With climate change, precipitation would occur more often as rain than snow and the snow would melt earlier within the year. Although hydropower is based on moving water, the reduced summer stream flow would greatly reduce its efficiency because the summer months is when energy is most needed to provide power for utilities such as air conditioning. The increase in rain may also lead to an increase in runoff and higher chances of flood occurrences.

The existence of snowpack is detrimental to water supply and the impacts of losing it would greatly hamper resources needed in the future. If global warming emissions are significantly curbed and temperature were to stick around its current state, then the losses of snowpack would be greatly reduced.


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