Table of contents

3.1.2. Water availability

Climate change is projected to intensify the hydrological cycle in general and to change precipitation patterns across Europe. The most relevant hydrologic variables from the perspective of the energy system are annual river flow and river flow droughts (for thermal power plants and hydropower plants) and soil water availability (for bioenergy production). These variables are driven the combined effect of changes in precipitation patterns, temperature and the physiological responses of plants to atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

comments (0)

Past and projected changes in precipitation show marked differences across Europe. Northern Europe has generally become wetter in recent decades whereas southern Europe has generally become drier. This trend is projected to continue in the future, but with marked seasonal differences (EEA, 2017e).

comments (0)

Projected changes in annual river flow show a similar pattern as those for annual precipitation. Overall, southern European countries are projected to face decreasing water availability, particularly Spain, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Italy and Turkey. In contrast, central and northern European countries show an increasing annual water availability (EEA, 2016e; Bisselink et al., 2018).

comments (0)

Droughts can be distinguished into meteorological, soil moisture (or agricultural), hydrological (including river flow) and socio-economic droughts. The severity and frequency of meteorological and hydrological droughts has increased in parts of Europe, particularly south-western and central Europe.

comments (1)

Available studies project large increases in the frequency, duration and severity of meteorological and river flow droughts in most of Europe over the 21st century, except for northern European regions (EEA, 2017f; Bisselink et al., 2018).

comments (0)

Changes in summer soil moisture follow a similar pattern as changes in low river flow.

comments (2)

Decreases in summer soil moisture (i.e. increases in soil moisture stress) are projected for most European regions, except for northern and north-eastern Europe. Notably, soil moisture stress (in summer) is projected to increase even in regions where (annual) precipitation is projected to increase, such as north-western Europe (EEA, 2016f; Bisselink et al., 2018).

comments (0)