Tag Archives: Dams

The ‘State of the World’s Rivers’ Project Documents Decline In Rivers From Dams

international-rivers-dams
The new database shows information for the world’s 50 major river basins.

By International Rivers;

On August 26th, International Rivers launched “The State of the World’s Rivers,” a first-of-its-kind interactive online database that illustrates the role that dams have played in impoverishing the health of the world’s river basins. The database shows how river fragmentation due to decades of dam-building is highly correlated with poor water quality and low biodiversity. Many of the world’s great river basins have been dammed to the point of serious decline, including the Mississippi, Yangtze, Paraná and Danube.

“The evidence we’ve compiled of planetary-scale impacts from river change is strong enough to warrant a major international focus on understanding the thresholds for ‘river change’ in the world’s major basins, and for the planet as a whole system,” said Jason Rainey, Executive Director of International Rivers.

For example, in the Middle East, decades of dam building in the Tigris-Euphrates basin have made it one of the most fragmented basins in the world. As a result, the basin’s flooded grassland marshes have significantly decreased, leading to the disappearance of salt-tolerant vegetation that helped protect coastal areas, and a reduction in the plankton-rich waters that fertilize surrounding soils. Habitat has decreased for 52 native fish species, migratory bird species, and mammals such as the water buffalo, antelopes and gazelles, and the jerboa.

Meanwhile, some of the lesser-dammed basins, which are still relatively healthy at this point, are being targeted for major damming. For example, the most biodiverse basin in the world, the Amazon, still provides habitat for roughly 14,000 species of mammals, 2,200 fish species, 1,500 bird species, and more than 1,000 amphibian species, like the Amazon River Dolphin, the Amazonian Manatee, and the Giant Otter.

When all dam sizes are counted, an astonishing 412 dams are planned or under construction in the Paraná basin, and 254 in the Amazon basin.

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Tucuruí Dam spillway, Tocantins River, Brazil (Eneida Castro). Brazilian researchers estimated in 2007 that methane from dams is responsible for around 4% of human-caused global warming. Greenhouse gases, primarily methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2), are emitted from the surface of the reservoir, at turbines and spillways, and for tens of kilometers downstream. Emissions are highest in hot climates. Captions and Photo source: ©© International Rivers

In Asia, China plans to continue to dam the Yangtze basin with at least another 94 planned large dams, while an additional 73 are under construction. At least 153 more dams are planned or already being built in the Mekong basin.

Other basins that are high in biodiversity and water quality which are also targets for dam-building include the Tocantins, the Irrawaddy, the Congo, and the Zambezi.

Zachary Hurwitz, the coordinator of the project, said: “Basins that have been highly fragmented by dams provide important lessons for managing the relatively un-dammed basins that remain. Governments should turn their attention to river preservation to protect these basins’ valuable ecosystem services.”

In addition to calling for an inter-governmental panel of experts to assess the State of the World’s Rivers, International Rivers recommends that no more dams be built on the mainstems of rivers, and that damming rivers becomes an option of last resort.

Created using Google Earth, the State of the World’s Rivers website maps nearly 6,000 dams in the world’s 50 major river basins, and ranks their ecological health according to indicators of river fragmentation, water quality and biodiversity. The dams mapped are a small percentage of the more than 50,000 large dams that clog the arteries of our planet.

Users of the site can compare how each individual basin ranks in fragmentation, biodiversity, and water quality, and explore ten of the most significant river basins in more depth. Each focus basin describes the threats from dam building, and allows users to see how dams can impact Ramsar Sites of Wetlands of International Importance and UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Original Article And Learn More, International Rivers

Sediment Trapped Behind Dams Makes Them ‘Hot Spots’ for Greenhouse Gas Emissions
The large reservoirs of water behind the world’s 50,000 large dams are a known source of methane. Methane has a warming effect 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. That knowledge led to questions about hydroelectric power’s image as a green and nonpolluting energy source…

New Global Warming Culprit: Dams
Washington State University researchers have documented an underappreciated suite of players in global warming: dams, the water reservoirs behind them, and surges of greenhouse gases as water levels go up and down…

Large Dams “Highly Correlated” with Poor Water Quality, IPS news

Dams As Weapons Of War, Yale E360

DamNation; a Documentary That’s Testing the Waters of Corporate Social Responsibility; From Felt Soul Media
DamNation is a feature documentary, shown this week at SXSW in Austin, Tx. DamNation’s majestic cinematography and unexpected discoveries move through rivers and landscapes altered by dams, but also through a metamorphosis in values, from conquest of the natural world to knowing ourselves as part of nature…

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People of Amazon… Photo source: ©© Neil Palmer/CIAT/CIFOR.
A series of dams are being planned for the Tapajós River, also a major Amazon tributary. The dams would flood national parks, reserves and indigenous lands. Captions: ©© International Rivers.

World’s Largest Dam Removal Unleashes U.S. River

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Elwha river, estuary. Photograph: © SAF — Coastal Care

Excerpts;

A construction crew on Tuesday detonated a large charge of dynamite, destroying the last remaining portion of Glines Canyon Dam and hastening the restoration of the Elwha River in the far reaches of the Pacific Northwest.

Part of the largest dam-removal project in the nation, the $325 million undertaking represents the beginning of a new era for the river, the surrounding ecosystem and those who come to experience it…

In Asia, Africa, and South America, large hydroelectric dams are still being built, as they once were in the United States, to power economic development, with the added argument now that the electricity they provide is free of greenhouse gas emissions. But while the U.S. still benefits from the large dams it built in the 20th century, there’s a growing recognition that in some cases, at least, dambuilding went too far—and the Elwha River is a symbol of that…

Read Full Article: “World’s Largest Dam Removal Unleashes U.S. River After Century of Electric Production,” National Geographic
The blasts will destroy the last 30 feet of the 210-foot-high dam and will signal the culmination of the largest dam-removal project in the world.
In Asia, Africa, and South America, large hydroelectric dams are still being built, as they once were in the United States, to power economic development, with the added argument now that the electricity they provide is free of greenhouse gas emissions. But while the U.S. still benefits from the large dams it built in the 20th century, there’s a growing recognition that in some cases, at least, dambuilding went too far—and the Elwha River is a symbol of that…

Read Full Article: “River Reborn: Elwha Flows Wild and Free Once Again,” NBC News
A construction crew on Tuesday detonated a large charge of dynamite, destroying the last remaining portion of Glines Canyon Dam and hastening the restoration of the Elwha River in the far reaches of the Pacific Northwest.

Sediment Trapped Behind Dams Makes Them ‘Hot Spots’ for Greenhouse Gas Emissions
The large reservoirs of water behind the world’s 50,000 large dams are a known source of methane. Methane has a warming effect 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. That knowledge led to questions about hydroelectric power’s image as a green and nonpolluting energy source…

New Global Warming Culprit: Dams
Washington State University researchers have documented an underappreciated suite of players in global warming: dams, the water reservoirs behind them, and surges of greenhouse gases as water levels go up and down…

Elwha, The Grand Experiment (11-12-2012)

DamNation; a Documentary That’s Testing the Waters of Corporate Social Responsibility; From Felt Soul Media
DamNation is a feature documentary, shown this week at SXSW in Austin, Tx. DamNation’s majestic cinematography and unexpected discoveries move through rivers and landscapes altered by dams, but also through a metamorphosis in values, from conquest of the natural world to knowing ourselves as part of nature…

Tracking Sediments’ Fate In Largest-Ever Dam Removal
Scientists tracking the aftermath of the largest dam removal in U.S. history say the dismantling of a dam in northwestern Washington state has unleashed about 34 million cubic yards of sediment and debris that built up for more than a century…

Let’s Talk About Sand: “Sand Wars” Film Director Denis Delestrac, At TEDxBarcelona

Controversial dam projects – in pictures, The Guardian UK
A look is taken at some of the world’s most contentious dam projects, from the Three Gorges in China to Brazil’s Belo Monte dam.

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Dam removal in process, Elwha river. Photo courtesy of: © Andy C., Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines (PSDS)

As Small Hydropower Expands, So Does Caution on Its Impacts

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Photo source: ©© Broken Haiku

Excerpts;

Small hydropower projects have the potential to bring electricity to millions of people now living off the grid.

But experts warn that planners must carefully consider the cumulative effects of constructing too many small dams in a single watershed…

Read Full Article, Yale E 360

What Is A Large Dam? Questions and Answers About Large Dams by International Rivers
A large dam is defined by the dam industry as one higher than 15 metres (taller than a four-story building). There are more than 40,000 large dams worldwide. There are more than 300 major dams – giants which meet one of a number of criteria on height (at least 150 metres), dam volume and reservoir volume…

Small Dams On Chinese River Harm Environment More Than Expected, study finds; NSF (05-30-2013)
A fresh look at the environmental impacts of dams on an ecologically diverse and partially protected river in China found that small dams can pose a greater threat to ecosystems and natural landscapes than large dams…

Dams: What They Are and What They Do, International Rivers
Excerpted from Chapter 1 of Patrick McCully’s book: “Silenced Rivers: The Ecology and Politics of Large Dams”

Army Corps Of Engineers Agrees To Disclose Dam Pollution

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San Clemente Dam on California’s Carmel River. Captions and Photo source: NOAA

Excerpts;

For the first time in its history, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will have to disclose the amount of pollutants its dams are sending into waterways in a groundbreaking legal settlement that could have broad implications for the Corps’ hundreds of dams nationwide…

Read Full Article, CBS News

DamNation; a Documentary That’s Testing the Waters of Corporate Social Responsibility; Felt Soul Media On Vimeo
DamNation is a feature documentary, shown this week at SXSW in Austin, Tx. DamNation’s majestic cinematography and unexpected discoveries move through rivers and landscapes altered by dams, but also through a metamorphosis in values, from conquest of the natural world to knowing ourselves as part of nature…

Sediment Trapped Behind Dams Makes Them ‘Hot Spots’ for Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Science Daily (08-01-2013)
The large reservoirs of water behind the world’s 50,000 large dams are a known source of methane. Methane has a warming effect 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. That knowledge led to questions about hydroelectric power’s image as a green and nonpolluting energy source…

Life-Giving Deltas Starved by Dams, y Peter Bosshard, Policy Director, International Rivers / Huffington Post (05-24-2014)
At a time when coastal areas are already battered by climate change, life-giving deltas are being sacrificed to dam building…

Standford’s Searsville Dam Spurs Debate

searsville-dam
Searsville dam. Photo source: ©© Gazebo

Excerpts;

Stanford University is finding itself at the center of an unlikely environmental battle. It centers on an aging dam and the barrier it creates for native fish. A decision on whether to tear it down is expected later this year.

Searsville Dam was built in 1892, originally to supply water to the city of San Francisco, but there was one small problem — it wasn’t drinkable. Today the water behind the dam is used to irrigate campus lawns and the university golf course. The dam blocks a series of creeks and streams above it…

Read Full Article, ABC 7 News

San Francisquito Creek – America’s Most Endangered Rivers 2014, A Youtuve Video By American Rivers
Searsville Dam blocks spawning headwater streams for San Francisquito Creek. Removing the 65-foot dam will allow endangered steelhead to return upstream and spawn…

Largest Dam in State History Torn Down, California, ABC News (05-21-2013)

Elwha, The Grand Experiment (11-12-2012)
Stanford University’s School of Humanities and Sciences, and their Knight Risser Prize for Western Journalism, has honored Lynda Mapes of the Seattle Times with a Special Citation for the report, “Elwha: The Grand Experiment”, which focusses on the largest dam removal project in the world currently underway in Washington State.

Tracking Sediments’ Fate In Largest-Ever Dam Removal, University Of Washington (03-08-2013)
Scientists tracking the aftermath of the largest dam removal in U.S. history say the dismantling of a dam in northwestern Washington state has unleashed about 34 million cubic yards of sediment and debris that built up for more than a century…

DamNation; a Documentary That’s Testing the Waters of Corporate Social Responsibility, From Felt Soul Media (04-18-2014)
DamNation is a feature documentary, shown this week at SXSW in Austin, Tx. DamNation’s majestic cinematography and unexpected discoveries move through rivers and landscapes altered by dams, but also through a metamorphosis in values, from conquest of the natural world to knowing ourselves as part of nature…

elwha-dam
Elwha Dam removal, 2011. The largest dam-removal project in U.S. history—the Elwha River Restoration Project—commenced during the second week of September 2011, when National Park Service contractors began to dismantle two dams on the Elwha River in Washington State. The 32-m-tall Elwha Dam and the 64-m-tall Glines Canyon Dam, completed in 1913 and 1927, respectively, have been blocking the natural supply of sediment to the lower river and coast and severely limiting salmon and steelhead spawning for nearly a century.Captions: Jonathan A. Warrick / USGS. Photograph: © SAF

As Dams Fall, Rapid Changes On Elwha River

elwha-river-mouth
Elwha river mouth. Photograph: © SAF

Excerpts;

The final chunks of concrete are expected to fall this September in the nation’s largest dam-removal project, but nature is already reclaiming the Elwha River on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.

So much sediment, once trapped in reservoirs behind two hydroelectric dams, has flowed downstream that it has dramatically reshaped the river’s mouth, replenished eroding beaches and created new habitat for marine creatures not observed there in years…

Read Full Article, Komo News

Elwha, The Grand Experiment

Sand Mafia Behind Sudden Release Of Water?

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Beas river banks, near Kullu, India. Photo source: ©©NA.dir

Excerpts;

Environmental activists believe that Larji dam officials are bribed by a sand mafia to open the gates at one go instead of releasing the water slowly, as is being done in other dams.

They claim that fast discharge of a huge volume of water leads to large amount of sand getting settled on riverbeds, which dry up fast.

These deposits are smuggled by the mafia in late-night operations…

Read Full Article, The Hindu

Beas river: Drowned engineering students are not the only tragedy, First Post

Sand Wars, An Investigation Documentary, By Denis Delestrac

A Major Victory in Patagonia: Chilean Government Rejects HidroAysén’s Dam Project

chile-dam-protest
Protesting in Santiago, Chile. Government approval of a plan for a dam in a pristine part of the country has brought thousands to the streets. March, 8th, 2012. Photo source: ©© VisionShare

Excerpts;

Chile’s government, under the leadership of President Bachelet, made a landmark decision today when it rejected the controversial HidroAysén dam project.

“The HydroAysen hydroelectric project is rejected,” declared the Minister of the Environment upon announcing the decision this morning.

This is a major victory for the majority of Chileans and the tens of thousands of people around the world who oppose building large, unsustainable dams in wild Patagonia, and for those who think that Chile can be a global clean energy leader by developing its remarkable potential for renewables* and energy efficiency…

Read Full Article, Science Daily

Chilean Patagonia: a Way of Life Under Threat by Dams (05-10-2011)

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Patagonia, Chile. Photo courtesy of: © Makoto Yamashita

The Colorado River Returns to the Sea

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Colorado River into the Gulf of California, Sea of Cortez.
These two pictures illustrate the extremes of water flow in the Colorado River since measurements began in the late 1800s. The 1985 image (Left) was taken in the midst of record high flow, while the 2007 image (Right) shows the driest period. Excessive rains or severe droughts directly change the amount of water available in the Colorado River Basin, and so does the increasing pressure of human needs throughout the western states. The river, which has its headwaters in the snowmelt of the Rocky Mountains, is 1,400 miles (2,253 kilometers) long and empties into the Gulf of California, also known as the Sea of Cortez. Captions and Images source: U.S. Department of the Interior / USGS and NASA.

Excerpts;

After coursing through its delta for nearly eight weeks, the fresh waters of the Colorado River have touched the high tides of the salty sea.

It is the first time in sixteen years that the Colorado River, which flows 1,450 miles (2,334 kilometers) from its headwaters in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado to the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California) in northwestern Mexico, will have reached its final, natural destination.

This reunion between river and sea is due to an agreement between Mexico and the United States, known as Minute 319, to advance the restoration of the Colorado Delta by releasing a pulse flow and sustaining base flows in a five-year experiment…

Read Full Article, National Geographic

The Return of the Colorado River to the Sea, Take Part
Eight weeks after the facilitated pulse flow, which began on March 23, and now nearing its end, the Colorado River touched the Gulf (also known as the Sea of Cortez). National Geographic reports that scientists didn’t expect the pulse flow to achieve the historic occurrence, which they describe as a “wonderful bonus…”

Historic “Pulse Flow” Brings Water to Parched Colorado River Delta, National Geographic (02-22-2014)

Relief for a Parched Delta, The New York Times (04-17-2013)
Thanks to dams that throttled the Colorado and diverted its water to fuel the rise of the American West, the river has effectively ended at the Mexican border. The Colorado delta, once a lush network of freshwater and marine wetlands and meandering river channels and a haven for fish, migrating birds and other wildlife, is largely a parched wasteland…

DamNation; a Documentary That’s Testing the Waters of Corporate Social Responsibility