Assessment of Hydropower Development Impacts on Hydrological Balance and Inundation Dynamics Change of the Lower Mekong River Basin
Due to rising energy demands and attempts to reduce fossil-fuel dependence, hydropower development has rapidly expanded all around the globe. Once a pristine watershed, the Mekong River basin (MRB) is seeing an unprecedented boom of dams and reservoirs becoming operational or being planned for the near future. Despite their benefits for renewable energy production, hydropower dams and reservoirs can negatively impact the region’s fisheries and agriculture activities. A satellite-based and robust framework that combined Forecasting Inundation Extents using REOF analysis (FIER), Hydrological Predictions for the Environment (HYPE) model, and the Integrated Reservoir Operation Scheme (IROS) is proposed to assess the long-term impact of hydropower development on hydrological balance and inundation dynamics for the Lower Mekong River basin (LMB). Dam-induced alterations, which were the most drastic during the most recent decade, were found to decrease the decadal-average wet season’s water level by up to 3% and increase water level by up to 12% during the dry season. The existence of dams also reduced annual flood occurrence by up to 11 days and altered the inundated area by up to 13% increase and 10% decrease during the dry season and wet season respectively. As a large number of future planning dams are planned for the MRB, we strive to develop the framework as an assessment tool to help local decision makers and water managers investigate the hydrological impacts of hydropower development and maintain the water-food-energy balance in the region.