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Impacts of using lakes and rivers for extraction and disposal of heat

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The extraction and disposal of heat from lakes and rivers is a large yet scarcely exploited source of renewable energy, which can partly replace fossil fuel heating and electrical cooling systems. Its use is expected to increase in the near future, which brings attention to the impacts of discharging thermally altered water into aquatic systems. Our review indicates that thermal discharge affects physical and ecological processes, with impacts recorded at all levels of biological organization. Many in situ studies found local effects of thermal discharge (such as attraction or avoidance of mobile organisms), while impacts at the scale of the whole water body were rarely detected. In complex systems, diffuse impacts of thermal discharge are difficult to disentangle from natural variability or other anthropogenic influences. Discharge of warm water in summer is likely to be most critical, especially in the context of climate change. Under this scenario, water temperatures may reach maxima that negatively affect some species. Given the diversity and complexity of the impacts of thermal pollution on aquatic systems, careful planning and judicious management is required when using lakes and rivers for extraction and disposal of heat. We discuss the drivers that influence the severity of potential impacts of such thermal use, and the options available to avoid or mitigate these impacts (such as adapting the operating conditions).

This article is categorized under:

  • Science of Water > Water and Environmental Change
  • Water and Life > Stresses and Pressures on Ecosystems
  • Engineering Water > Sustainable Engineering of Water
Key processes (unboxed) and possible consequences (boxed) of thermal discharge in lakes
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A conceptual model of the impacts of thermal discharge in lakes and rivers
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Exemplified thermal requirements of an individual and a population of a fish species. The curves in the lower plot represent the frequency distribution of the responses. (Reprinted with permission from Elliott (). Copyright 1981 Academic Press)
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Key processes (unboxed) and possible consequences (boxed) of thermal discharge in rivers
[ Normal View | Magnified View ]

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Engineering Water > Sustainable Engineering of Water
Water and Life > Stresses and Pressures on Ecosystems
Science of Water > Water and Environmental Change

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