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Blue+Water+Footprint+of+Electricity+From+Hydropower+ +Jan2012+Mekonnen

Blue+Water+Footprint+of+Electricity+From+Hydropower+ +Jan2012+Mekonnen

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Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 16, 179–187,2012www.hydrol-earth-syst-sci.net/16/179/2012/ doi:10.5194/hess-16-179-2012© Author(s) 2012. CC Attribution 3.0 License.
Hydrology andEarth SystemSciences
The blue water footprint of electricity from hydropower
M. M. Mekonnen and A. Y. Hoekstra
Department of Water Engineering and Management, Univ. of Twente, P.O. Box 217, 7500 AE Enschede, The Netherlands
Correspondence to:
M. M. Mekonnen (m.m.mekonnen@ctw.utwente.nl)Received: 31 August 2011 – Published in Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss.: 8 September 2011Revised: 13 January 2012 – Accepted: 16 January 2012 – Published: 20 January 2012
Abstract.
Hydropower accounts for about 16% of theworld’s electricity supply. It has been debated whether hy-droelectric generation is merely an in-stream water user orwhether it also consumes water. In this paper we providescientific support for the argument that hydroelectric genera-tion is in most cases a significant water consumer. The studyassesses the blue water footprint of hydroelectricity – the wa-ter evaporated from manmade reservoirs to produce electricenergy – for 35 selected sites. The aggregated blue waterfootprint of the selected hydropower plants is 90Gm
3
yr
1
,which is equivalent to 10% of the blue water footprint of global crop production in the year 2000. The total blue wa-ter footprint of hydroelectric generation in the world mustbe considerably larger if one considers the fact that thisstudy covers only 8% of the global installed hydroelectriccapacity. Hydroelectric generation is thus a significant waterconsumer. The average water footprint of the selected hy-dropower plants is 68m
3
GJ
1
. Great differences in waterfootprint among hydropower plants exist, due to differencesin climate in the places where the plants are situated, butmore importantly as a result of large differences in the areaflooded per unit of installed hydroelectric capacity. We rec-ommend that water footprint assessment is added as a com-ponent in evaluations of newly proposed hydropower plantsas well as in the evaluation of existing hydroelectric dams,so that the consequences of the water footprint of hydroelec-tricgenerationondownstreamenvironmentalflowsandotherwater users can be evaluated.
1 Introduction
The need to supply a growing population with sufficientfresh water in the context of increasing water scarcity anddeclining water quality has brought sustainable water re-sources management to the forefront of the global develop-ment agenda. For centuries, dams have played a key rolein human development, bringing about significant social andeconomic improvements, but also having significant impactson local communities and ecosystems. About 30–40% of ir-rigated land worldwide relies on water stored behind dams(World Commission on Dams, 2000) and hydropower ac-counted for 16% of world electricity in 2008 (IEA, 2010).Large hydropower dams have both positive and negativeeffects (Sternberg, 2008, 2010). Dams have been built toregulate river flows, store water to guarantee adequate sup-ply of water in dry periods, control floods, irrigate agricul-tural lands, provide for navigation and to generate electricity.Negative impacts associated with the building of large damsinclude displacement of people, loss of land and alterationof river flows and water quality affecting downstream peopleand ecosystems (Gleick, 1993; Rosenberg et al., 1995; Poff et al., 1997; Scudder, 1997; Lerer and Scudder, 1999; Tilt etal., 2009). Worldwide, many countries are likely to continuedepending on hydroelectric dams as their source of electric-ity. But such development should be in a manner which ad-dresses environmental concerns and the question how waterresources can best be allocated.It has been debated whether hydroelectric generation ismerely an in-stream water user or whether it also consumeswater, in the sense of effectively taking away water fromthe river (Cooley et al., 2011). In the World Congress or-ganized by the International Hydropower Association, 14–17 June 2011 in Brazil, a special session was devoted to thequestion: does hydropower consume water? The session ex-plored different interpretations of water “consumption” in anattempt to recognize the energy impacts on water (Aguilar etal., 2011). In this paper we provide scientific support for theargument that the production of hydroelectricity is in mostcases a significant water consumer.As an indicator of water consumption of hydroelectricitywe use the concept of the water footprint, which measuresthe volume of freshwater consumed and polluted to producethe product along its supply chain. The water footprint of a
Published by Copernicus Publications on behalf of the European Geosciences Union.
 
180 M. M. Mekonnen and A. Y. Hoekstra : The blue water footprint of electricity from hydropower
product is equal to the sum of freshwater consumed or pol-luted divided by the quantity of production of the product(Hoekstra and Chapagain, 2008; Hoekstra et al., 2011). Thewater footprint consists of three components: the green wa-ter footprint (consumptive use of rainwater), the blue waterfootprint (consumptive use of ground or surface water) andthe grey water footprint (the volume of water polluted). Theanalysis in this paper is restricted to the quantification of theblue water footprint of hydroelectricity and focuses on theconsumptive use of water that relates to the evaporation fromthe artificial reservoirs that are created behind hydroelectricdams.Storage of water behind large hydropower dams leads toconsumptive water use through evaporation from the openwater surface of the artificial lake. Gleick (1993) has shownthat between 0.01 and 56m
3
GJ
1
, or on average 1.5m
3
of water per GJ of electricity produced is evaporated from hy-droelectric facilities in California. In a recent study for NewZealand, Herath et al. (2011) estimated the water footprint of hydro-electric generation for eight plants and found valuesbetween 0.8 and 32m
3
GJ
1
. In another recent study, Pfis-ter et al. (2011) report values between 0.3 and 170m
3
GJ
1
based on a few cases from the USA, Switzerland and Tan-zania. By combining the estimate of global evaporationfrom artificial water reservoirs in the world from Shiklo-manov (2000) with data on global hydroelectric generationfrom Gleick (1993), Gerbens-Leenes et al. (2009a) estimatedthat the global average blue water footprint of electricityfrom hydropower is 22m
3
GJ
1
.The objective of the current study is to estimate the bluewater footprint of hydroelectricity for 35 selected reservoirs.First we estimate the evaporation throughout the year for theselected reservoirs. Next, we calculate the water footprint of hydropower based on the annual evaporation rate and energygenerated. We have considered both the theoretical maxi-mum and the actual hydroelectric generation of the plant.The theoretical maximum hydroelectric generation refers tothe energy that could be generated with 100% hydropoweravailability. Since this theoretical maximum is not realisti-cally attainable, comparisons among the hydropower plantsand further discussion of the water footprint will be based onthe actual energy generation.The selection of the hydropower plants has been largelyarbitrary and mostly based on the availability of data. Theselected plants are shown in Fig. 1. All plants selected havebeen primarily built for the purpose of hydroelectric genera-tion, although some serve other purposes as well. With theexceptionofthelargesthydropowerplantssuchasItaipu, Tu-curui, Sayano Shushenskaya, Robert-Bourossa, Yacyreta andCahora Bassa all hydropower plants selected are the ones in-cluded in World Bank (1996). The 35 hydropower plantshave a total capacity of about 73GW and represent 8% of theglobalinstalledhydroelectriccapacityof924GWin2007(IEA, 2010).
2 Method and data
The water footprint of electricity (WF, m
3
GJ
1
) generatedfrom hydropower is calculated by dividing the amount of wa-ter evaporated from the reservoir annually (WE, m
3
yr
1
) bythe amount of energy generated (EG, GJyr
1
):WF
=
WEEG(1)The total volume of evaporated water (WE, m
3
yr
1
) fromthe hydropower reservoir over the year is:WE
=
10
×
365
=
1
E
×
A
(2)where
E
is the daily evaporation (mmday
1
) and
A
the areaof the reservoir (ha).Data on installed hydroelectric capacity, actual hydroelec-tric generation and reservoir area were obtained from theWorld Bank (1996). For some hydropower plants data wereobtained from Goodland (1997) and other sources. Data onreservoir water holding capacity were obtained mainly fromChao et al. (2008).There are a number of methods for the measurement or es-timation of evaporation. These methods can be grouped intoseveral categories including (Singh and Xu, 1997): (i) empir-ical, (ii) water budget, (iii) energy budget, (iv) mass transferand (v) a combination of the previous methods.Empirical methods relate pan evaporation, actual lakeevaporation or lysimeter measurements to meteorologicalfactors using regression analyses. The weakness of theseempirical methods is that they have a limited range of ap-plicability. The water budget methods are simple and canpotentially provide a more reliable estimate of evaporation,as long as each water budget component is accurately mea-sured. However, owing to difficulties in measuring some of the variables such as the seepage rate in a water system thewater budget methods rarely produce reliable results in prac-tice (Lenters et al., 2005; Singh and Xu, 1997). In the energybudget method, the evaporation from a water body is esti-mated as the difference between energy inputs and outputsmeasured at a site. Energy budget methods are consideredto be the most reliable in theory (Lenters et al., 2005; Singhand Xu, 1997), but require costly instrumentation and a largecommitment of personnel for field work and data processing(Winter et al., 1995). The mass-transfer (aerodynamic) basedmethods utilize the concept of eddy motion transfer of watervapour from an evaporating surface to the atmosphere. Themass-transfer methods normally use easily measurable vari-ables and give satisfactory results in many cases. However,measurement of wind speed and air temperature at inconsis-tent heights, have resulted in a large number of equationswith similar or identical structure (Singh and Xu, 1997). Thecombination methods combine the mass transfer and energy
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 16, 179–187,2012 www.hydrol-earth-syst-sci.net/16/179/2012
 
M. M. Mekonnen and A. Y. Hoekstra : The blue water footprint of electricity from hydropower 181
Fig. 1.
Locations of the selected hydropower plants.
budget principles in a single equation. Two of the most com-monly known combination methods are the Penman equationand the Penman-Monteith equation.Owing to its limited empirical basis, the Penman-Monteithequation is more readily applicable to a variety of water bod-ies. In addition, the model takes into account heat storagewithin water bodies. Therefore, for the purpose of the cur-rent study the Penman-Monteith equation with heat storageis considered suitable for the estimation of evaporation fromthe selected hydropower reservoirs.The evaporation from the water surface (
E
, mmday
1
) isestimated using the Penman-Monteith equation with an in-clusion of water body heat storage. This equation is writtenas (McJannet et al., 2008):
E
=
1
λ
×
w
×
(R
n
G)
+
γ 
×
f(u)
×
(e
w
e
a
)
w
+
γ 
(3)where
E
is open water evaporation (mmday
1
);
λ
the la-tent heat of vaporization (MJkg
1
);
w
the slope of the tem-perature saturation water vapour curve at water temperature(kPa
C
1
);
R
n
net radiation (MJm
2
day
1
);
G
the changein heat storage in the water body (MJm
2
day
1
);
f(u)
the wind function (MJm
2
day
1
kPa
1
);
e
w
the saturatedvapour pressure at water temperature (kPa);
e
a
the vapourpressure at air temperature (kPa); and
γ 
the psychrometricconstant (kPa
C
1
). The full description of the method usedis presented in the Supplement.Daily values of mean air temperature, dew point temper-ature and wind speed for the selected meteorological sta-tions were obtained from NCDC (2009). The daily datafor the years 1996–2005 were averaged in order to fill miss-ing values and smooth out some inconsistencies in the data.Monthly values of cloud cover and percentage of maximumpossible sunshine with a spatial resolution of 10 arc minutewere obtained from the CRU CL-2.0 database (New et al.,2002). The cloud cover and sunshine duration were availableonly as monthly averages for the period 1961–1990. There-fore the monthly average values were used as daily values foreach month of the year.The water footprint of electricity from hydropower is com-pared with the water footprint of electricity from combustionof primary crops. The latter has been calculated per type of crop by first multiplying the water footprint of the primarycrop in m
3
ton
1
from Mekonnen and Hoekstra (2011) bythe harvest index for that crop to get the water footprint inm
3
per ton of total biomass harvested. Harvest indices weretaken from Gerbens-Leenes et al. (2009a, b). Next, the waterfootprint of total biomass was divided by the bio-electricityoutput per unit of crop (GJton
1
) as reported by Gerbens-Leenes et al. (2008).
www.hydrol-earth-syst-sci.net/16/179/2012/ Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 16, 179187,2012

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