Water-Energy Nexus in Latin America: Climate Change and Hydropower Vulnerability

Climate change impacts on water resources are increasingly affecting the vulnerability of global hydropower generation. Higher temperatures and changing weather patterns are altering evaporation, river flow, rainfall patterns, frequency of extreme weather, and glacial melting rates. These effects are compounded by the expected increased water demands for economic and population growth, resulting in greater reduction in the overall available water for many rivers.

Since hydropower generation is dependent on adequate river flow and water availability in reservoirs, climate change effects pose real risks to countries that rely heavily on this source of renewable power. Latin America is one region with a huge hydropower potential and many countries already dependent on hydropower. Combined with climate change effects seen in areas of Latin America, many countries face increased vulnerability in their energy sectors.

Climate Change Impacts on Water Resources

The impacts of climate change and increased energy demand will be magnified in dam-impacted river basins where water resources are already affected. Dams influence the flow of rivers at a basin-wide scale, reducing their ability to absorb disturbances like extreme floods and droughts, more frequent hurricanes, rising sea level, and melting glaciers. Management action to mitigate these effects is likely required in 13% of the world’s large river basins. If no actions are taken, drought-induced hydroelectricity blackouts and dam safety risks may occur.

For the complete article, please see Worldwatch blog.