Analysis of Drought Impacts on Electricity Production in the Western and Texas Interconnections of the United States

This study, produced by the Environmental Science Division of Argonne National Laboratory, analyzes the potential impact of drought on electricity generation within the western and Texas interconnections.  The report examines how electricity generation relies heavily on water resources and their availability, and illustrates the interdependence of energy and water in the electricity context. 

Researchers developed three design drought scenarios through analysis of historical drought patterns in the western United States. These scenarios allowed quantification of the risk to electricity generation in eight basins under each scenario. The majority of basins showed a limited amount of risk under most scenarios. According to the report, this risk can likely be mitigated by existing strategies in coordination with present reserve generation and  transmission capacity. For individual power producers and generating units, the most important risk mitigation strategies were determined to be the proactive establishment of modeling, monitoring, and planning processes to provide time for mitigation strategy implementation.

The literature review in Chapter Three identifies key drought parameters and data on drought frequency and severity. Drought parameters and correlations were drawn from historical hydrological drought data for the western United States. The literature review summarizes recent analyses of drought, drought impacts on electricity production and demand, and drought contingency plans. Chapter Three also includes a table summarizing drought response strategies.

The study briefly acknowledges the potential for climate change to exacerbate drought severity and/or frequency, without detailed analysis on climate projections. In Chapters Five and Six the authors recommend that future research examine drought impacts under climate change in the near future (20 years).

This study was performed in response to a request from the Western Governors' Association (WGA) and sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability. It is part of a larger DOE research effort to develop tools related to the interdependency of energy and water. Regional and state electricity councils will use results of the analysis to develop scenarios for modeling and planning.


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Publication Date: December 2011

Related Organizations:

  • Department of Energy


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Assessment

States Affected:


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