Impacts of California’s Ongoing Drought: Hydroelectricity Generation 2015 Update

Published: February 2016
Authors: Peter Gleick
Pages: 10

Full Report


Hydropower and natural gas are the principal sources of electricity for California’s millions of users. But California’s hottest and driest drought in recorded history, from 2012 to 2016, shifted the sources of energy for electricity with adverse economic and environmental consequences. The prolonged period of extreme drought reduced the river flows powering hundreds of hydropower stations in the state. Natural gas replaced the lost hydroelectricity, at high cost to both consumers and the environment.

This report is a comprehensive assessment of the costs to California of lost hydroelectricity during the four years of drought from October 2011 to the end of September 2015 (the official California “water year” runs from October 1 to September 30).


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