Pilot Study 5

Water resources and the use of hydroelectricity, Italy

Overall aim

In the long term, the uncontrolled development of hydropower plants may cause sustainability problems, as the systematic exploitation of water resources may reduce the ability of aquatic ecosystems to provide services to the population.

The general purpose of this pilot study was therefore to improve existing policies concerning the exploitation of water resources at catchment scale, with a particular emphasis on the production of hydroelectricity.

Study area

The pilot study covered two river basins in the Autonomous Province of Trento, in the Alpine region of north-east Italy.


The starting point for the study was the analysis of various types of data, obtained by an appropriate combination of climatic and hydrological modeling. This led to the development of reliable future scenarios regarding the availability of water resources and the energy market, providing valuable support to the identification of decision-making criteria for optimal water resources management.

The analysis also supported the development of detailed climate scenarios for the medium and long term, which contributed to an assessment of how the availability of water resources will change in the future. The emerging picture was then transferred from the climate to the hydrological component, taking into consideration all aspects of water resources use and environmental sustainability in terms of minimum vital flow constraints. The study used a continuous hydrological model capable of simulating how climate forcing terms will affect water availability across the territory. Using this model, it was possible to assess the impact of the introduction of new water withdrawal infrastructure, whether for the production of hydroelectricity or for other purposes such as agriculture and fishery. It was also possible to evaluate the effects of climate change on the efficiency of current and future hydropower plants across the territory.


Pilot Study 5 Report: Water resources and the use of hydroelectricity in the Autonomous Province of Trento