Update 12:23 PM: Lava reached the hot water pipeline just after noon today, cutting off the hot water supply on Reykjanes. Authorities are responding to the situation and more information will be available shortly.
Lava from the eruption that began this morning on Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula has flowed across the road to the town of Grindavík. The peninsula’s hot water supply is at risk of being cut off by the advancing lava, and the Civil Protection Department has raised its alert phase for the area to “danger” as a result. The eruption is localised within a small area and flights to and from Iceland are not affected.
Residents and businesses asked to limit hot water use
Lava is now flowing toward the main pipeline that transports hot water from Svartsengi Power Plant to Reykjanesbær. If lava does flow over the pipes, it will cut off hot water supply to the towns of Reykjanesbær, Suðurnesjabær, Grindavík, and Vogar. According to the current rate of flow, this could happen within the next few hours.
As a precaution, civil protection authorities ask residents and business on the Reykjanes peninsula to lower their indoor heating, limit hot water use, and avoid using hot water for showers, baths, or hot tubs. In addition, locals are asked to delay turning on electrical heating systems and devices for as long as possible in order to not overwhelm the system. Locals are also asked to give responders leeway to do their necessary work.
A foreseeable scenario
Icelandic authorities had foreseen this potential scenario and had begun work on laying an underground pipeline in the area where the eruption is now taking place. A 500-metre long section has been laid that could replace the current pipeline if it is destroyed by lava, but it could take several days to put bring the new pipeline into use. Hot water reserves for the area can last around 12-14 hours if used sparingly.