Hydropower production in future climate scenarios; the case for the Zambezi River

Hydropower production in future climate scenarios; the case for the Zambezi River

Climate change remains a threat to water resources projects in southern Africa where impacts resulting from changes in climate are projected to be negative and worse than in most other regions of the world. This work presents an assessment of the impacts of climate change on water resources and hydropower production potential in the Zambezi River Basin. Future climate scenarios projected through the five General Circulation Model (GCM) outputs are used as input in the impact assessment.

The future projected climate scenarios are downscaled to find local and regional changes, and used in the Hydrologiska Byråns Vattenbalansavdelning (HBV) hydrological model to assess climate change impacts on water resources in the river basin. According to the simulations, air temperature and potential evaporation are projected to increase, while rainfall is projected to decrease. The Zambezi hydropower system is likely to be affected negatively as a result of future climate changes. Increasing air temperature leading to increased evaporation, and reduced rainfall, both contribute to a decrease in resulting river flows and increased reservoir evaporation. Consequently, the decrease in water resources will lead to decreased hydropower production potential, by 9% in 2020s, 18% in 2050s and 28% in 2080s in the hydropower system, for a medium emission scenario.

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