This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

April 17, 2002

Will Drought Conditions Affect Hydropower Generation?

Given the drought conditions that are currently hitting the United States, particularly on the East Coast, this seems like a good time to visit the federal Web site on drought conditions. Called "Drought Termination and Amelioration," the site is produced by the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The site shows current U.S. conditions in terms of the Palmer Hydrological Drought Index (PHDI), which becomes more negative as conditions deteriorate: a PHDI of -3 or more is a severe drought, and a PHDI of -4 is an extreme drought. The site then looks at the probability, based on weather statistics, of receiving enough precipitation to ameliorate the drought (increase the PHDI to -2) and to end it (increase the PHDI to -0.5). See the NCDC Web site.

Comparing current drought conditions to the production of hydropower in each state, it appears that for now the West coast is being spared — the drought conditions are worst in the areas that produce relatively little hydroelectric power. On the East Coast, however, drought conditions could potentially impact electricity supplies in Maine, South Carolina, and Virginia. These states normally draw on hydropower for 26.5 percent, 19.2 percent, and 16.5 percent of their power, respectively. See the State Electricity Profiles on the DOE Energy Information Administration Web site.