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Water could become scarce – does Switzerland have sufficient storage capacity?

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More very hot days, dry summers and winters with little snow: according to the Swiss Climate Scenarios CH2018, this is what Switzerland can expect if climate change progresses unchecked. Water could therefore become scarce, especially in summer. Will it be possible to cope with such shortages by replacing precipitation and discharge with water from existing reservoirs?


Manuela Brunner investigated this question together with researchers from the University of Applied Sciences Rapperswil. In 307 catchment areas in Switzerland, they estimated how scarce water in summer is today and is likely to be in future, and compared their estimates with the storage volume of natural lakes and artificial reservoirs.

Their findings: throughout Switzerland, the volume stored is sufficient to cope with a water shortage. However, current regulations mean that only a small proportion of the water volume in the lakes can actually be used, while the water in reservoirs is mainly reserved for hydropower production. In order to exploit the potential of reservoirs, concessions for use would have to be renegotiated. In addition, the reservoirs are often not located on the Central Plateau, which is where water is mainly needed. A follow-up project will investigate how the framework should be changed to ensure the existing storage facilities can be used for more than one purpose.
(Lisa Bose, Diagonal 2/19)