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Heat and drought are sucking US hydropower dry

A half-empty water reservoir, with a pale layer of rocks above the waterline showing how high the water used to be.
Lake Mead, formed by Hoover Dam on the Colorado River in the Southwestern United States, at 47 percent capacity as viewed on August 14, 2023 near Boulder City, Nevada. | Photo by George Rose/Getty Images

The amount of hydropower generated in the Western US last year was the lowest it’s been in more than two decades. Hydropower generation in the region fell by 11 percent during the 2022–2023 water year compared to the year prior, according to preliminary data from the Energy Information Administration’s Electricity Data Browser — its lowest point since 2001.

That includes states west of the Dakotas and Texas, where 60 percent of the nation’s hydropower was generated. These also happen to be the states — including California, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico — that climate change is increasingly sucking dry. And in a reversal of fortunes, typically wetter states in the Northeast — normally powerhouses for hydropower generation — were the…

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