Impacts of drought on water intakes for Power Stations

As part of the NERC- Oxford ENDOWS/MARIUS Drought Project, Prof Paul Whitehead and Dr Gianba Bussi have undertaken a water quality modelling study on the River Trent. The aim was to assess the potential impacts of drought on water intakes for Power Stations on the Trent. INCA Flow, N, P Sediments, DO and BOD models were set up for the Trent catchment.  A set of drought scenarios based on the Oxford Weather@home data sets were used to drive the models and assess impacts on flows and water quality. Power plants use river waters for cooling purposes and can be sensitive to droughts and low flows. Water quality is also a concern, due to algal blooms and sediment loads that might clog filters. Paul and Gianba assessed the impacts of droughts on river flow and water quality from the point of view of power plant operation. The INCA (INtegrated CAtchment) water quality model was coupled with the weatrher@home climate model to create a dataset of flow and water quality time series. The results suggest a significant decrease in flows and an increase in phosphorus concentrations, potentially enhancing algal production. Power plants should expect more stress in the future based on the results of this study, due to reduced cooling water availability and decreasing upstream water quality. This issue might have serious consequences also on the whole national power network.

Fig 1: River Trent Topography and INCA Reach Boundaries

Fig 2: Impacts of Climate Change (near future and far future) on distributions of the average concentration of nitrate and phosphorus during droughts (top row) and maximum concentration of nitrate and phosphorus during droughts (bottom row) for the River Trent at the catchment outlet (Reach 10).

See more: Bussi, G., P.G. Whitehead. 2020. Impacts of droughts on low flows and water quality near power stations. Hydrological Sciences Journal, doi: 10.1080/02626667.2020.1724295.