Climate change warms rivers

Consequences: Shortage of water for power plants, problems for native species

The rivers are getting warmer © WWF
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The mean temperatures of our rivers are threatening to rise by an average of 1.5 ° C by the middle of the 21st century. This is the result of a recent study by the environmental organization WWF. This warming caused by climate change could make it more difficult to supply cooling water to power plants, but it could also harm aquatic animals.

More problems for the power supply

Already in the course of the 20th century, the water temperature in Central European rivers has increased by about one degree, according to the environmental organization. Already in the summers of 2003, 2006 and 2007, the permissible limits, which limit or prohibit the introduction of heated cooling water, were achieved according to WWF data at different rivers and power plant sites.

In the future, cooling water use by nuclear or coal-fired power plants could experience more frequent problems due to the increase in temperature - and thus directly affect the safety of power generation. "More critical high water temperatures can lead to significant losses in electricity production. In extreme cases, even the security of supply with electricity is at risk ", warns WWF officer Georg Rast.

Warm water facilitates the spread of non-native species

The consequences for the flora and fauna are also considered serious by the Environmental Foundation. Above all, the increase in winter minimum temperatures could lead to an increased spread of non-native plants and animals, which under the previous conditions could hardly resist the Central European winters. "We feel that

Cold phases this year as particularly hard. Not so long ago, it was more of a rule that rivers and lakes froze for weeks, "says Georg Rast. display

Also epidemics and epidemics become more likely in the animal kingdom. For example, the low outflows and simultaneous high water temperatures in the summer of 2003 were apparently the main reason for the massive eel dying observed in the Rhine. Even for classic cold water inhabitants, such as the trout, which is popular as a food fish, according to the latest findings, the habitat is becoming ever smaller, as they can not dodge indefinitely into higher lying cooler sections of water.

Is a collapse of the rivers threatening?

"Increased air temperatures, altered snowmelt and the excessive supply of hot water from the continuous cooling of thermal power plants - all these factors can cause our rivers to collapse, " warns WWF expert Rast. "The rivers are important lifelines and of enormous importance for electricity production, agriculture, drinking water supply or even tourism."

To protect the rivers from the effects of climate change, the WWF Foundation calls for coordinated and ambitious river management based on the naturalness of waters. "Richly structured, flat and free-flowing waters with shady banks of shores can best cope with the expected effects, " says Georg Rast. Therefore, increased efforts to restore the waters are required.

(WWF, 13.03.2009 - NPO)