The Water Footprint of Hydropower Production—State of the Art and Methodological Challenges
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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This paper reviews published estimates of water consumption from hydropower production and the methodologies applied. Published values range from negative to more than 115 000 m3 MWh−1. Most gross water consumption rates are in the range 5.4–234 m3 MWh−1, while most net values are in the range 0.2–140 m3 MWh−1. Net values are often less than 40% of the gross values, sometimes only 1% of the gross water consumption estimates. The extremely wide range in estimates is explained by an inconsistent methodology and the very site-specific nature of hydropower projects. Scientific challenges, such as allocation from multipurpose reservoirs, and spatial assignments in river basins with several hydropower plants, affect the results dramatically and remain unresolved. As such, it is difficult to propose “typical values” for water consumption from hydropower production. This paper points out directions of research in order to prepare a consistent and improved methodology for the calculation of water consumption from hydropower projects. This should take into account the role of reservoirs in the provision of a large range of water services, as well as providing regulated power to the energy system.