Hydroelectric Power And Disaster Risk Reduction

Hydroelectric power plays a significant role in the energy industry, supplying about 16% of the world’s electricity. However, with its inherent dependence on water, hydroelectric power plants are exposed to various natural hazards that can lead to catastrophic consequences. Therefore, disaster risk reduction is crucial for the operation and maintenance of hydroelectric power facilities. In this article, we will discuss the different types of natural hazards that hydroelectric power plants face and the measures that can be taken to reduce or mitigate disaster risks.

Types of Natural Hazards

Hydroelectric power plants are exposed to various natural hazards, such as floods, landslides, earthquakes, and extreme weather conditions. These hazards can occur anytime, anywhere, and can cause significant damage if appropriate disaster risk reduction measures are not in place.


Floods are the most common natural hazard that hydroelectric power plants face. Heavy rainfall, snowmelt, dam breaches, or water delivery system failures can cause floods. The water from the floods can damage the powerhouses, generators, transformers, and electrical equipment. It can also cause soil erosion, landslides, and debris flows that can block waterways, intake structures, and gates.


Landslides are another natural hazard that can affect hydroelectric power plants. Slope failures caused by heavy rain, soil erosion, or seismic activity can cause landslides. Landslides can block access roads, damage water delivery systems, and cause structural damage to the powerhouses. In addition, landslides can lead to dam failure, which can have disastrous consequences.


Earthquakes can cause significant damage to hydroelectric power plants, especially when the plants are located in seismically active areas. The ground motion from earthquakes can cause structural damage, foundation failure, and equipment damage. It can also cause landslides, dam failures, and water delivery system failures.

Extreme Weather Conditions

Extreme weather conditions, such as hurricanes, typhoons, or cyclones, can cause significant damage to hydroelectric power plants. The high winds, heavy rainfall, and storm surges can damage structures, electrical equipment, and water delivery systems. In addition, extreme weather can cause landslides, debris flows, and flooding, leading to critical failures in hydroelectric power plants.

Disaster Risk Reduction Measures

Disaster risk reduction measures can help mitigate the effects of natural hazards on hydroelectric power plants. These measures can be divided into three categories: pre-event measures, during event measures, and post-event measures.

Pre-Event Measures

Pre-event measures include activities that aim to reduce disaster risks before the occurrence of natural hazards. These measures include:

  • Conducting hazard assessments to identify potential natural hazards and their potential impacts.
  • Implementing physical protection measures, such as building protective structures like walls and barriers to prevent damage from floods and landslides.
  • Performing regular maintenance and inspections of the power plants, water supply systems, and flood control structures.
  • Developing emergency plans and evacuation procedures in the event of natural disasters.
  • Educating and training personnel and the public on disaster preparedness measures.

During Event Measures

During event measures are actions taken to reduce disaster risks during the natural hazard event. These measures include:

  • Monitoring water levels and discharges to predict potential floods and adjust water delivery systems accordingly.
  • Activating emergency response plans and evacuating personnel and the public.
  • Isolating power plants and electrical equipment to prevent damage from water and debris.
  • Shutting down power plants to prevent additional damage to equipment and structures.

Post-Event Measures

Post-event measures are actions taken to assess damage and restore the hydroelectric power plants to their pre-disaster condition. These measures include:

  • Conducting impact assessments to determine the extent of damage.
  • Performing repairs and replacing damaged equipment and structures.
  • Conducting safety inspections before restarting power plants.
  • Reviewing and updating emergency plans and procedures based on lessons learned from the disaster.


Hydroelectric power is a valuable and reliable source of energy. However, its dependence on water makes it vulnerable to natural hazards such as floods, landslides, earthquakes, and extreme weather conditions. Disaster risk reduction measures are crucial in reducing the impacts of these natural hazards on hydroelectric power plants. Pre-event measures, during event measures, and post-event measures can help reduce disaster risks and ensure the safety and reliability of hydroelectric power facilities. By implementing disaster risk reduction measures, hydroelectric power can continue to play a critical role in the energy industry for years to come.

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