How can hydro power work?
Dams destroy biodiversity in large areas and displace local people but they make benefit from hydroelectricity for outside investors.
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Sound water management schemes are prerequisite to any development. Catchment areas are very resourceful for water conservation.
What is Hydro power?
Households and industry both depend on reliable supplies of clean water. Therefore, the management and protection of water resources is important. Constructing dams across flowing rivers or streams and impounding the water in reservoirs is a popular way to control water resources. Dams have several advantages and disadvantages:
• they allow long-term water storage for agricultural, industrial and domestic use,
• they can provide hydroelectric power production and downstream flood control.
• Dams also disrupt ecosystems,
• they often displace human populations,
• they destroy good farmland, and
• they eventually fill with silt.
Humans often tap into the natural water cycle by collecting water in man-made reservoirs or by digging wells to remove groundwater. Water from those sources is channeled into rivers, man-made canals or pipelines and transported to cities or agricultural lands. Such diversion of water resources can seriously affect the regions from which water is taken.
For example, the Owens Valley region of California became a desert after water projects diverted most of the Sierra Nevada runoff to the Los Angeles metropolitan area. This brings up the question of who owns (or has the rights to) water resources.
Water rights are usually established by law.
In the eastern United States, the "Doctrine of Riparian Rights" is the basis of rights of use. Anyone whose land is next to a flowing stream can use the water as long as some is left for people downstream.
Things are handled differently in the western United States, which uses a "first-come, first-served" approach, known as the "Principle of Prior Appropriation". By using water from a stream, the original user establishes a legal right for the ongoing use of the water volume originally taken. Unfortunately, when there is insufficient water in a stream, downstream users suffer.
The case of the Colorado River highlights the problem of water rights. The federal government built a series of dams along the Colorado River, which drains a huge area of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. The purpose of the project was to provide water for cities and towns in this arid area and for crop irrigation.
However, as more and more water was withdrawn from these dams, less water was available downstream. Only a limited volume of water reached the Mexican border and this was saline and unusable. The Mexican government complained that their country was being denied use of water that was partly theirs, and as a result a desalinization plant was built to provide a flow of usable water.
Common law generally gives property owners rights to the groundwater below their land. However, a problem can arise in a situation where several property owners tap into the same groundwater source.
The Ogallala Aquifer, which stretches from Wyoming to Texas, is used extensively by farmers for irrigation. However, this use is leading to groundwater depletion, as the aquifer has a very slow recharge rate. In such cases as this, a general plan of water use is needed to conserve water resources for future use.
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