Department Surface Waters - Research and Management

Effects of hydropower on surface waters

Oberaarsee, Photo: Eawag


Hydropower is the most important energy source for electricity production in Switzerland. We assess the impacts of this hydropower production on the physical properties, such as temperature, stratification, or particle concentrations, of downstream rivers and lakes.

Following the Energy Strategy 2050 of the Swiss government, its importance is expected to increase further in the future due to the phasing out of nuclear power production.
Within the Swiss Competence Center for Energy Research - Supply of Electricity SCCER-SoE we investigated the impacts of the changes in hydropower production due to the Energy Strategy on riverine ecosystems and developed methods to reduce these impacts.

Furthermore, lakes and reservoirs are increasingly used for storing electricity using pumped-storage hydropower plants. We are investigating the effects of such pumped-storage operations on the temperature and stratification in the affected lakes and reservoirs.

Key publications

Aksamit, C. K.; Carolli, M.; Vanzo, D.; Weber, C.; Schmid, M. (2021) Macroinvertebrate recovery to varying hydropeaking frequency: a small hydropower plant experiment, Frontiers in Environmental Science, 8, 602374 (16 pp.), doi:10.3389/fenvs.2020.602374, Institutional Repository
Calamita, E.; Vanzo, D.; Wehrli, B.; Schmid, M. (2021) Lake modeling reveals management opportunities for improving water quality downstream of transboundary tropical dams, Water Resources Research, 57(4), e2020WR027465 (20 pp.), doi:10.1029/2020WR027465, Institutional Repository
Kobler, U. G.; Wüest, A.; Schmid, M. (2018) Effects of lake – reservoir pumped-storage operations on temperature and water quality, Sustainability, 10(6), 1968 (15 pp.), doi:10.3390/su10061968, Institutional Repository
Lange, K.; Meier, P.; Trautwein, C.; Schmid, M.; Robinson, C. T.; Weber, C.; Brodersen, J. (2018) Basin-scale effects of small hydropower on biodiversity dynamics, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 16(7), 397-404, doi:10.1002/fee.1823, Institutional Repository