Reservoir Filling Up Problems in a Changing Climate: Insights From CryoSat-2 Altimetry

Zhiwei Wang, Liguang Jiang*, Karina Nielsen, Lei Wang

*Corresponding author for this work

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Recent droughts have severely threatened water security in many regions worldwide. Reservoirs, designed to combat droughts and secure water supply partially, are reported failing to fill up to the total capacity due to severe droughts. How bad is climate affecting reservoir filling up on a global scale? This issue has not been studied. We present a big picture of reservoirs in crisis using satellite altimetry. Thanks to the unique characteristics of CryoSat-2, 525 reservoirs worldwide were investigated during 2010–2022. Results show that most reservoirs (93%) are found not fully filled up at least once. About 21% of reservoirs, which are mainly located in the Southern Hemisphere, show a significant decline in water levels. Moreover, about 20% of reservoirs with larger level fluctuations (>3 m) are located in less developed economies, indicating informed operation rules are needed. Further analyses indicate reservoirs are largely affected by extreme climate events, such as ENSO.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2024GL108934
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number10
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Altimetry
  • Climate change
  • CryoSat-2
  • Drought
  • Filling-up
  • Reservoir


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