Impacts of California’s Five-Year (2012-2016) Drought on Hydroelectricity Generation

Published: April 2017

Authors: Peter Gleick

Pages: 16



The severe five-year drought afflicting California from 2012 to 2016 was the driest and hottest in the instrumental record. This report is a comprehensive assessment of the costs to California of lost hydroelectricity during the five years of drought from October 2011 to the end of September 2015 (the official California “water year” runs from October 1 to September 30).

Under normal conditions, electricity for the state’s millions of users is produced from a blend of many sources, with natural gas and hydropower being the top two. During the drought, reductions to state river flows that power hundreds of hydropower stations meant that natural gas became a more prominent energy source. This was an expensive change, leading to increases in electricity costs and carbon dioxide emissions.


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