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Switzerland is regarded as the "water tower of Europe". However, the water does not always flow in the right place at the right time. In time, climate change could further exacerbate this situation. We study the processes involved in fluctuating rain and meltwater run-off levels and identify the risks and opportunities arising from this, including for hydropower.

 

Too much or too little water

Fluctuating and changing run-off levels require both civil protection services and water resource management. Our snow and water run-off measurement networks throughout Switzerland record when and how much snow and water is available in specific locations. These measurements and the information derived from them allow for more reliable predictions to be made regarding water run-off levels. This is especially critical for optimising energy generation from hydropower.

Glaciers in retreat

One key climate change issue is to determine what consequences rising temperatures, melting glaciers and less frequent snowfall will have on water availability in the medium term. After all, snow constitutes an important temporary cache for winter precipitation, which replenishes groundwater reserves for drinking water supplies and agriculture. This is why we are examining the hydrological processes relating to glacial retreat. We explore the fundamental glaciological processes in laboratory and field studies in order to determine the earlier extent of glaciers and predict future water availability.

The impact of the energy transition

The conversion of the Swiss energy system has consequences for the environment and for society. This means that the ability to make predictions is highly beneficial. As part of the Energy Change Impact research programme, the WSL and SLF are examining the availability of water, sun, wind and biomass resources required for the energy transition. This also includes the question of how changes in utilisation as a result of the energy transition may impact the environment and landscape.

 

Topics

Alpine snow and water resources

We examine hydrological and climatological issues, particularly in connection with snow, runoff, climate and natural hazards.

Snow as a water resource

How much snow accumulates where, and when does it melt? Snow hydrology aims to answer such questions. Both hydropower plants and flood warning systems...

Mountain glaciers in a changing climate

Knowing how glaciers evolve is crucial for hydropower operations, water availability, and assessments of natural hazards.

Enormous energy potential in the Swiss Alps

The research programme Energy Change Impact investigates both the necessary quantities of the resources required for the shift to renewables, and the...

 

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