Free-Flowing Rivers Imperiled by Dams

Guest no schist Sherlock by David Middleton

From the AGU’s “bleeding obvious” files…

Where Did All the Free-Flowing Rivers Go?

A map of the world’s free-flowing rivers shows a shrinking number can still meander as they please. New plans for hydropower will further constrain flow.

By Jenessa Duncombe

Giant catfish once swam in the golden-brown waters of the Mekong River near the Thai village of Sob Ruak. But since the Chinese government built hydropower dams upstream, the waters now drop too low for the catfish to lay their eggs. The loss of habitat for the catfish is just one of many stressors the increasingly developed river faces.

new study released 8 May in the journal Nature suggests that the Mekong’s plight is not unique: Humans have significantly impacted the majority of the world’s 242 longest rivers. Just one third of long rivers still flow freely throughout their entire length, and the most untouched rivers exist far from population hubs in the Arctic, the Amazon River Basin, and the Congo River Basin.


“This study is not meant to be a study that says ‘stop any kind of development,’” Bernhard Lehner, an associate professor in the Department of Geography at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and one of the first authors on the study, told Eos. “But it’s meant to find smart solutions.”


The analysis revealed not only that most of the world’s longest rivers are no longer free-flowing but also that dams are the overwhelming cause.


“We always come back to dams as being the main culprit in all this,” Lehner said.

Dams stop species from migrating upstream, and they also trap sediment, preventing it from flowing down the river.


Murky Waters

Although dams fragment a river and cause a litany of downstream damages, they also provide a source of renewable energy. There are increasingly urgent calls worldwide for lowering greenhouse gas emissions, and hydropower dams are one answer.

Climate change driven by greenhouse gas emissions harms rivers as well: Hotter air temperatures warm river waters and decrease the amount of dissolved oxygen they can hold. Restricting the free flow of rivers by installing hydropower dams will hurt the ecosystem further, according to the new study.

“While we try to counter climate change, it makes the situation in rivers worse for ecology,” Lehner noted. “This is the conundrum in this whole story.”

Lehner hopes that the new data set, which is available with its source code for free, will give planners a resource to scrutinize the full effects of river management infrastructure.



“This study is not meant to be a study that says ‘stop any kind of development… But it’s meant to find smart solutions… We always come back to dams as being the main culprit in all this… While we try to counter climate change, it makes the situation in rivers worse for ecology… This is the conundrum in this whole story.”

Ummm yeah, have you thought about just going with natural gas and nuclear power for new power plants? And… Maybe trying to capture as much CO2 as possible from coal-fired plants and using it for enhanced oil recovery?

I think we can defeat the Green Mafia the same way Captain James T. Kirk defeated Harry Mudd’s androids…

The Eos article did feature a really neat map…

A map of global rivers’ free-flowing status. Credit: Grill et al., 2019,

Citation: Duncombe, J. (2019), Where did all the free-flowing rivers go?, Eos, 100, Published on 08 May 2019.

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May 9, 2019 3:27 pm

Build nuclear plants.
Build nuclear plants.
Build nuclear plants.

Caligula Jones
Reply to  mikesixes
May 9, 2019 6:51 pm

Indeed, we have to as creating dams causes “greenhouse gas” emissions:

Really, they do:

Reply to  Caligula Jones
May 9, 2019 10:52 pm

So if CO2 and methane were “dirty” this may be a problem.

While we try to counter climate change, it makes the situation in rivers worse for ecology… This is the conundrum in this whole story.”

The conundrum is that when you lie to create a false problem you will end up with solutions that go against what is really in your best interest because you have ( deliberately ) skewed the terms of reference. You thought you were being really smart and manipulating everyone and it backfired.

Solution to the conundrum: but the hubris and stop lying.

There seems to be some unstated assumption that “free flowing” is the optimal state. Anything with the word “free” in it must be the best, right? They fail to explain why maximising entropy is desirable.

Steve O
Reply to  mikesixes
May 9, 2019 7:36 pm

The same group hitting the panic button over global warming is largely the same crowd that has successfully thwarted the widespread adoption of nuclear power. It’s too much for their brains to reverse course. Internal rationalization mechanisms prevent it. They could NOT have spent a lifetime advocating for energy policy that has now doomed mankind! What would that say about their superiority?

Mark BLR
Reply to  mikesixes
May 10, 2019 5:39 am

“Build nuclear plants”.

It’s Friday, pre-caffeine intake.

My first thought was “Day of the Triffids ?” …

May 9, 2019 3:29 pm

“While we try to counter climate change, it makes the situation in rivers worse for ecology,” Lehner noted.

So the warm Amazon is less “ecological” than the cold Mackenzie?

Also what is this “connectivity index”. It seems a bit weird to count rivers that carry water perhaps once or twice a century as “fully connected”.

Reply to  tty
May 9, 2019 4:02 pm

If the change is caused by man, it’s bad, even evil.
Regardless of whether the change is good for plants and animals or not.

Reply to  MarkW
May 9, 2019 4:52 pm

I’ve always wondered about that….when you build a dam….the lake behind it forms it’s all new ecology
…if a dam has been there for 50 years and you take it down
are you restoring it…or destroying it

Bill in Oz
Reply to  Latitude
May 9, 2019 6:36 pm

Goggle “Menindie Lakes ” in Australia.
You’ll get an interesting answer.
Built in the 1940-60’s.
Drained for the first time ever in 2018.
Why >
To provide environment flows downstream in South Australia !

Tim Gorman
May 9, 2019 3:31 pm

I am having a *hard* time understanding this. Hydroelectric dams work by using water *flow*, i.e. by releasing water to flow downstream. So how do dams stop water flow?

Dams also can only cause a certain level of water backup. Once that level is reached, water flow downstream occurs just as it did before the dam was there. If there is too little water flow downstream from a dam then there would probably have been too little water flow in the river before the dam was there.

Again, dams simply cannot totally stop water flow in a river. The dam would have to be infinitely high. It sounds like there are other issues going on besides dams.

(P.S. what do beavers do?)

Reply to  Tim Gorman
May 9, 2019 4:07 pm

Dams change the timing of river flow, by holding back water during the spring floods and releasing that water during the rest of the year.
Normal would be high flow rates during the spring, dropping to a trickle mid summer. Post dam, the yearly flow is more constant.
Another issue is the causing water to slow down and even stop behind the dam, this causes any sediment that is being carried by the water to drop out, meaning it’s no longer available down stream. (THis has been a big problem for the Aswan dam in Egypt, as it means the farmland downstream is no longer replenished yearly the way it was in the time of the Pharoahs.)

If the dam discharged from near the top, the water being discharged can be warmer than is normal. If the dam discharges from the bottom (as some hydroelectric dams do), then the water is colder and lower in oxygen than it would have been absent the dam.

Reply to  MarkW
May 9, 2019 4:54 pm


Reply to  MarkW
May 9, 2019 5:39 pm

Cold water holds more oxygen, I have been told. Wrong?

Reply to  Jimb
May 10, 2019 7:29 am

Cold water holds more oxygen, but only if there is a source of oxygen. Unless it mixes with surface waters, bottom water rapidly loses it’s oxygen.

Jeff in Calgary
Reply to  MarkW
May 10, 2019 10:57 am

Water passing through a dam usually comes out at high speed and waterfalls down a ways. The water will dissolve all the O2 it needs in that simple action

Reply to  MarkW
May 9, 2019 5:39 pm

Cold water holds more oxygen, I have been told. Wrong?

Robert Stewart
Reply to  Jimb
May 9, 2019 8:34 pm

If there is little exchange of the bottom water, then the oxygen can be deleted by the biota. This happen occasionally in the lower end of Hoods Canal in Puget Sound where cold and salty water can form a rather stable puddle. I seem to recall that the sediments lying on the bottom the Charles “River” in Boston also have this problem. It wouldn’t be surprising if this phenomena was observed in dams. The water would be stratified due to the temperature differences, and the residence time of the bottom water could be relatively large if it was not the source of the outlet flow.

Richard Patton
Reply to  Robert Stewart
May 9, 2019 10:06 pm

The Black Sea has a similar issue. Below the level of the bottom of the Bosporus Straight the Black Sea is dead. There is no exchange of water with the upper oxygen rich layers. Some of the Fjords of Norway also have a similar issue.

Reply to  Robert Stewart
May 10, 2019 2:03 am

This however requires rather special circumstances. It is impossible in fresh water lakes in cold areas where water temperature in winter reaches 4 C. This is the density maximum for fresh water and causes an automatic turnover of the lake water, the surface water sinks and is replaced by upwelling deep water.
In the ocean it is only possible when the salinity of the surface waters is lower than the deep water and forms a “lid” of less dense water over the salter, denser deep water. This is what has happened in the Black Sea, parts of the Baltic and many norwegian fjords. They are all enclosed basins with large freshwater runoff and brackish surface water.
During the last interglacial which was much warmer and wetter it also happened in the eastern Mediterranean. The extra water from the Nile and other saharan and levantine rivers freshened surface water and caused anoxia in deep waters.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  MarkW
May 9, 2019 6:33 pm

“Dams change the timing of river flow, by holding back water during the spring floods and releasing that water during the rest of the year.”

That’s not how the dams around here work! The lakes fill during the spring causing the dams having to release water to prevent damage to the dam. If the lake then starts to drop during the summer and fall it’s because there isn’t enough rain runoff. If there isn’t enough rain runoff to keep the lake full then there wouldn’t be enough to keep the river full anyway!

Water released from the top of the dam is no warmer than slow flowing water in the river pre-dam. Cold water released from the dam will soon warm from conduction from the earth and from the sun. There may be a some impact close to the dam.

The sediment is probably not lost. It’s location is just changed. As the feed river brings in sediment to the lake in the spring some of it winds up being deposited on land covered by the lake in the spring. Late planted crops such as soybeans and corn benefit greatly.

Reply to  Tim Gorman
May 10, 2019 7:32 am

Then your dams aren’t being used for flood control.
Changing the place where sediment is deposited is a change to the river.

Caligula Jones
Reply to  MarkW
May 10, 2019 8:00 am

We are having some major flooding in our “cottage country” north of Toronto, Canada.

Anyone interested can read this for a good view of the data:

Tim Gorman
Reply to  MarkW
May 10, 2019 10:15 am

Tim: “That’s not how the dams around here work! The lakes fill during the spring causing the dams having to release water to prevent damage to the dam. If the lake then starts to drop during the summer and fall it’s because there isn’t enough rain runoff. If there isn’t enough rain runoff to keep the lake full then there wouldn’t be enough to keep the river full anyway!”

Mark: “Then your dams aren’t being used for flood control.”

Of course they are being used for flood control. But no dam is infinitely high. When the working height of the dam is reached water *has* to be released to prevent the dam from failing! That’s usually in the spring! And the water being released will equal the runoff that would have normally occurred along the river, it *has* to be or the dam will fail.

Why is this so hard to understand?

Reply to  MarkW
May 9, 2019 8:28 pm

Vietnam is already experiencing problems from the loss of Mekong silt.
People living in Mekong Delta areas may need to buy boats as the land subsides.

I’m sure NOAA will claim isostasy and add to the local sea levels to account for land rise.

Reply to  ATheoK
May 10, 2019 3:51 am

New Orleans and the Mississippi Delta are sinking for the same reason. When you dump silt in an area for 5000 years, the land sinks under the load. When you suddenly stop dumping silt there the land does not stop sinking. This is the result:

Reply to  Dave Burton
May 10, 2019 8:25 am

5,000 years? More like 50 million years.

Reply to  Dave Burton
May 10, 2019 10:31 am

True. But it’s my understanding that the current Mississippi Delta is only about 5K years old. Coincidentally, 5K ±3K years is also probably a reasonable guesstimate for the time constant for the crust’s elastic response.

In other words, although you’re obviously right that the Mississippi (and Mississippi-like predecessors) have been moving silt for a lot longer than 5K years, for the Delta it’s mostly the last 5K years that matters.

Steve Reddish
Reply to  MarkW
May 10, 2019 9:30 am

Let the bottom discharge from the dam tumble over small steps, both aerating and warming it.


Tim Gorman
Reply to  Steve Reddish
May 10, 2019 10:20 am

Steve, most river channels below dams have built in aeration. It’s called rocks exposed through erosion.

Reply to  Tim Gorman
May 9, 2019 4:36 pm

Logically, while they fill they must reduce the downstream outflow. Until the reservoir reaches its full ‘working’ capacity it must be reducing downstream flow. Once reached usual outflow will be returned. However remember that the reservoir acts as the capacitance to system to regulate outflow by absorbing excess input from upstream that otherwise would cause flooding downstream. Like wise its capacitance can be drawn down during drought.
Absent this regulation on the water flow it would be incessant cycles between low water flow and flood.

Ask the Egyptians. They seem to have a history with flooding.

What isn’t usually factored in is the additional draw on this regulated water supply by the attendant population growth that the power and industry will enable.

Reply to  Rocketscientist
May 10, 2019 7:38 am

Reservoirs can also increase evaporation. Both reducing the amount of water available for the river and changing the environment surrounding the reservoir.

HD Hoese
Reply to  Tim Gorman
May 9, 2019 5:24 pm

Yes, beavers are interesting, they cut down swaths of trees in the Atchafalaya Basin, Louisiana, so far haven’t been able to dam it, humans neither. Dams do change things, good or bad another question, as I have dealt with this concerning diversions near the coast. You sometimes get pushed for policy actions, abdication of responsibility for those who are, well, responsible.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  David Middleton
May 10, 2019 5:13 am

David, not all fish migrate. Exactly what migrating fish exist where the dam is located in your picture? Where there are no migrating fish the lake resulting from the dam actually increases fish habitat and, therefore, fish populations.

Nor is that sediment lost. It is merely relocated to areas above the dam. Some benefit and some don’t. That’s almost always the case with development.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  David Middleton
May 10, 2019 9:47 am

David, the Mississippi River changes course over time as a natural change. The buildup of sediment basically creates new land mass and forces the river to find a different path to the sea. The only thing dams on the Mississippi River would cause is to move that land formation from sediment buildup to a different location. The delta’s don’t lose land mass because of a lack of sediment, they lose land mass because of land subsidence.

As always, someone benefits and someone loses. While the dams on the Colorado River may have cost those in California they have benefited those along the river.

Beaver dams were just an example of how natural processes affect the flow of water in a river. I never said beaver dams were equivalent to the Boulder Dam.

Reply to  Tim Gorman
May 10, 2019 7:41 am

It’s better for some species, worse for others.
The whole issue is that the ecology of the entire river has been changed, which you acknowledge.
The question becomes is the change overall, beneficial or not.

Caligula Jones
Reply to  MarkW
May 10, 2019 7:50 am

“It’s better for some species, worse for others.”

Sounds almost like…evolution or something.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  Caligula Jones
May 10, 2019 10:03 am

Caligula: “Sounds almost like…evolution or something.”

It is! A beaver dam in the wild creates a pond and wetlands above the dam – creating habitat for lots of species. Yes, downstream habitat will be affected but nature will evolve there also through adaptation. And sooner or later the beaver population will reach saturation and some beavers will move upstream and create a new dam and some will migrate downstream and create a new dam. Nature’s flood control!

Human dams aren’t significantly different when it comes to nature. Delta’s like that on the Mississippi River suffer exactly the same impact being talked about here. The delta’s grow and ultimately force the river channel to move, thus starving the old delta of sediment. In both cases, human or nature, the old delta winds up being changed and adaptation is required of all species, including humanity.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  MarkW
May 10, 2019 9:52 am

Mark, the whole issue is not whether the river ecology has been changed. The whole issue is, as you say, whether the overall change is beneficial or not. Based purely on opinion, my guess is that most water supply dams, flood control dams, and hydro-electric dams have been beneficial overall.

Alan Robertson
Reply to  David Middleton
May 10, 2019 8:11 am

If one understands that the inevitable destination of all land masses is the bottom of the sea, then trapping sediment behind dams could be viewed as slowing the inevitable process.
On the other hand, delta regions help slow wave erosion of coastal areas, which were previously built by silt deposition. Without silt replenishment, the delta areas quickly disappear and the wave action moves inland, to work against the rocks exposed from beneath the eroded soil.

Delta regions can be protected. Doing so is a matter of economics and politics.
Some smart scientists and engineers have probably already figured out how to replenish the Mississippi delta by re- introducing the sediments dredged to protect the New Orleans area, into the Delta, but then, the problem becomes political. Those plying the ship channels speak louder than fishermen in pirogues.

Reed Coray
Reply to  Tim Gorman
May 10, 2019 4:03 pm

Ah, but beavers are a natural part of nature, man isn’t. As Heinlein said:

There are hidden contradictions in the minds of people who ‘love Nature’ while deploring the ‘artificialities’ with which ‘Man has spoiled “Nature.” ‘ The obvious contradiction lies in their choice of words, which imply that Man and his artifacts are not part of ‘Nature’ — but beavers and their dams are. But the contradictions go deeper than this prima-facie absurdity. In declaring his love for a beaver dam (erected by beavers for beavers’ purposes) and his hatred for dams erected by men (for the purposes of men) the ‘Naturist’ reveals his hatred for his own race — i.e. his own self-hatred.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  Reed Coray
May 10, 2019 4:20 pm

Reed, Heinlein has it right. Man is also a natural part of nature. Just as the beaver changes the environment to suit his needs so does man. One is not “right” and the other “wrong”.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  David Middleton
May 11, 2019 4:57 am

David, thanks for the links on the beavers! My father-in-law and his neighbor were trappers. They would often tell about how they would trap a dam-building beaver off a farmers land only to have another one show up a year or two later in the exact same spot doing the exact same thing! I’m sure it was habitat driven but they always swore the beavers had some kind of a way of marking out the best spots.

Pillage Idiot
May 9, 2019 3:36 pm

The alarmists hate fossil fuels, but just today we find out that;

1.) Hydropower is no longer allowed.

2.) A lithium mine located on god-forsaken land at the edge of Death Valley is no longer allowed. (Even though it is needed for the ludicrous battery concept required to make wind and solar viable.)

I will believe the alarmists when Al Gore starts collecting dung by hand to heat his mansion.

M Courtney
May 9, 2019 3:46 pm

In fairness to this cutting edge research it has attracted much media attention. It was reported in the Guardian, for instance.

Guardian journalists tend to miss things as subtle as a huge dams and miles-wide reservoirs unless they are explained in a press release.

It’s their special form of journalism.

May 9, 2019 3:49 pm

Over 70% of New Zealand’s electricity is generated by hydro .
Once the stations are built there is almost no CO2 emitted to maintain them and to generate most of our electricity,
The Waikato river in the North Island has eight dams and the Clutha River has a number in the South Island. The Manapouri station is an underground station and all the power generated is sold to the aluminum smelter at Bluff .
Our power prices are rising steadily as we have numerous wind farms around the country and although they work quite well integrated with the hydro stations they are pushing up the price of electricity .
Any proposed dams are blocked by a very voracious minority of greens and eco loons.
All proposals have to approved by local councils then Regional councils then central government.
After having gained approval the anti everything brigade petition the Environment Court and the court rules against the projects .
A proposed irrigation dam in Hawkes Bay was stopped in the Environment Court on the grounds that some scrubby land belonging to the Government was to be flooded even although a trust was bequeathing a block of pristine native forest to the conservation estate to replace the flooded area.
A small hydro scheme on the Mokau River in the North Island was stymied by opposition from a very small group as the two mile long gorge that was to be dammed was said to be a treasure ,whereas the two mile lake would have been a great asset for the inland district ,for rowing and yachting .
I have heard some people who should know a lot better say that they would like to see dams demolished ,and the greens advocate this stupidity here in NZ .
Why do people think that dams are bad when they contribute so much benefit with CO2 free electricity and irrigation for food production in dry areas.
Do they not care and want to condemn there grandchildren to poverty ?

Mike Lowe
Reply to  Gwan
May 9, 2019 4:36 pm

Indeed. And what is so marvellous about an undammed river? Now we have the Greenies influencing our government, because they follow emotions rather than science concerning the catastrophic global warming hoax. The Waikato is a great example of a river successfully dammed, producing hydro-electricity while providing wonderful river-lakes for human enjoyment. So now the Greenies are criticising dams, hate irrigation, are dead against CO2 generated by fossil-fuel-burning, and of course would not countenance nuclear energy generation. I’m looking forward to the time these neanderthals crawl back into a cave somewhere! Sorry, no electric cars for you!

Reply to  Mike Lowe
May 9, 2019 6:49 pm

I’m looking forward to the time these neanderthals crawl back into a cave somewhere! Sorry, no electric cars for you!

Just call them what they are – Luddites.

“… The Luddites were a secret oath-based organization[1] of English textile workers in the 19th century, a radical faction which destroyed textile machinery as a form of protest. The group was protesting against the use of machinery in a “fraudulent and deceitful manner” to get around standard labour practices.[2] Luddites feared that the time spent learning the skills of their craft would go to waste, as machines would replace their role in the industry.[3] Over time, however, the term has come to mean one opposed to industrialisation, automation, computerisation, or new technologies in general.[4] The Luddite movement began in Nottingham at a time in England and culminated in a region-wide rebellion that lasted from 1811 to 1816. Mill and factory owners took to shooting protesters and eventually the movement was suppressed with legal and military force. …”

Rhoda R
Reply to  Gwan
May 9, 2019 4:38 pm

Most of the protestors are, if not themselves marxist, guided by marxists. Destroying you economy IS their goal.

Reply to  Gwan
May 9, 2019 4:54 pm

Some valleys are a treasure to behold and would seem a great loss to flood them. As an American I can only speak for a few that should be kept. Yosemite Valley for one. I am ignorant of the nature of its lost sibling Hetch Hetchy Valley but there are those who wish it returned:
I have not formed any opinion on the matter.
We saved the Grand Canyon, but flooded an almost equally spectacular gorge behind the Glen Canyon Dam. It did create Lake Powell, which became a boating enthusiast’s vacation spot. Touring the lake is spectacular, but what must be remembered that as you motor past the soaring sentinel walls is the water is almost as equally deep below you. And, those lower canyon walls will probably never be seen again.

Reply to  Rocketscientist
May 10, 2019 4:26 am

When humans become extinct and their constructions cease to be maintained that lost valley will reappear. You just won’t be around to see it.

Reply to  Gwan
May 9, 2019 6:20 pm

Over 70% of New Zealand’s electricity is generated by hydro .

Should work a rat on the Darling.

Reply to  Gwan
May 9, 2019 8:24 pm

“Gwan May 9, 2019 at 3:49 pm
Over 70% of New Zealand’s electricity is generated by hydro .
Once the stations are built there is almost no CO2 emitted to maintain them and to generate most of our electricity,”

Odd caveat for a dam that requires massive amounts of energy and CO2 emissions to produce the concrete needed.

Reply to  ATheoK
May 10, 2019 2:48 pm

I wrote that ” once the stations were built there is almost no CO2 emitted to maintain them and to generate most of our electricity ”
The Arapuni power station the second one built on the Waikato river was commissioned in 1929 so it has been producing power for 90 years .
The third power station Karapiro on the Waikato River was commissioned in 1948 so it has been working for over 70 years.
Benmore station in the South Island was a gigantic earth dam and it is out largest power station , was commissioned in the early 1960s so it has been producing power for Auckland via the Cook Strait power cable for nearly 60 years .
Of course there is energy and materials to build these stations but they last a long time and produce a vast amount of reliable electricity at a minimal cost

Richard Patton
Reply to  Gwan
May 9, 2019 10:13 pm

Yes they do (want to condemn everyone but themselves to poverty). They really believe that we have ten times too many people on this planet implying that 9 out of ten people should die.

Reply to  Gwan
May 9, 2019 11:52 pm

The greens oppose dams because they work and because they improve people’s lives.
I jest not. The greens oppose everything with those qualities.

Bruce Cobb
May 9, 2019 3:50 pm

And where have all the flowers gone? Long time passing.

May 9, 2019 3:51 pm

And… Maybe trying to capture as much CO2 as possible from coal-fired plants and using it for enhanced oil recovery?

David Middleton, lukewarmer? Say it ain’t so!

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Pat Frank
May 9, 2019 8:26 pm

No a very profitable arrangement if near an oil field.

May 9, 2019 4:05 pm

In the US, dams are not just about hydropower or furnishing fresh water. Prior to about 1927, flooding on most rivers were controlled by levees, many locally constructed and maintained, but often poorly. But the large floods in the Midwest in 1927, especially along the Mississippi and some of its large tributaries, brought about an active Corps of Engineers and dam building for flood control. Given the recent Midwest flooding and levee failures, new pressure to construct US dams may occur.

May 9, 2019 4:06 pm

They say “No more Dams,” instead we must have smart solutions.

The problem is what are the so called Smart solutions, wind and solar no

Its the old story, the Greater good argument.


Joel Snider
May 9, 2019 4:09 pm

‘Climate change driven by greenhouse gas emissions harms rivers as well’

I notice they have to shove that particular presumption in.

At least in my neck of the woods, they’re trying to tear out every dam they can simply to force people to use solar and windmills. Any other reason is just lip-service BS.

P Gibbons
May 9, 2019 4:13 pm

Use the CO2 for enhanced bio fuel growth.

John F. Hultquist
May 9, 2019 4:25 pm

A 10 min. video on a way to allow salmon to get downstream from a reservoir with fluctuating water level;

Anadromous fish passage at reservoirs in the Yakima River Basin has been a major hurdle for fish returning to upper basin habitat and a challenge for tribal leaders, water managers, and area residents who are trying to restore healthy fish runs. Today, a team of researchers, engineers and biologists, have developed a unique and innovative approach to outgoing juvenile fish passage. It’s called the Helix, a unique and efficient design that allows juvenile fish to leave Cle Elum reservoir earlier than ever before.

Moreover, the Helix can weather the effects of climate change* in two ways: by adjusting to varying reservoir levels and giving fish safe harbor to cooler habitat above the reservoir. The design is a collaborative achievement among the Yakama Nation fish managers and a diverse group of scientists, water managers and irrigators in collaboration with the Bureau of Reclamation and Washington State Department of Ecololgy. Also, it meets the needs of the Yakima basin community.

*Note that nothing gets funded without reference to climate change, so forgive this wording.

Reply to  John F. Hultquist
May 9, 2019 5:39 pm

So how do the fish get UP the river? The helix design seems to be concerned only with fish going down the river. I have seen almost no sensible fish ladders. It’s not hard to make one that works.

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  jaymam
May 9, 2019 7:38 pm

Most big dams on the Columbia River have fish ladders. Things swimming up-stream are videoed and counted later. With the film, workers can go back and check identification and/or call another for a replay.
The will also capture fish and truck them around a dam and the pool.
Solutions are being explored.
You are correct, the helix only allows for small ones to move downstream.

David Dibbell
May 9, 2019 5:17 pm

Sooo … “Where Did All the Free-Flowing Rivers Go?” laments the impact of the dams. Is anyone lamenting the loss of the free-flowing breezes? Wind turbines extract energy from the otherwise unimpeded flow of air at the surface, risking the lives of birds and bats. What, exactly, justifies the rotary air dams when the hydro dams are judged so harshly?

P.S. Don’t get the idea I’m against hydro. Far from it. I’m against poor reasoning.

May 9, 2019 6:28 pm

“This study is not meant to be a study that says ‘stop any kind of development,’” Bernhard Lehner, an associate professor in the Department of Geography at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and one of the first authors on the study, told Eos. “But it’s meant to find smart solutions.”

Why is it that every “smart solution” being touted by some University lecturer turns out to be really dumb, intangible, impractical or completely uneconomical ‘solution’, to what’s usually an imaginary ‘problem’ when no solution was ever required?

Bruce Clark
May 9, 2019 6:45 pm

No wonder I am confused or am I just colour blind.

Pumped Hydro is green but the dam needed to operate the scheme is not green.
Wind power is green but ruining acres of landscape and killing birds and bats is not green.
Solar power is green but covering acres of natural land surface with solar panels is not green.

Just what colour are these renewable energy schemes?

Gunga Din
Reply to  Bruce Clark
May 10, 2019 5:57 am

What color?
Depends on what the bull has been feeding on.
(Sorta like GIGO.)

May 9, 2019 7:04 pm

Flood control to prevent widespread death and destruction is overrated. Tear down this dam and bring back the Dark Ages!

May 9, 2019 7:47 pm

You just have to look at California or the Pacific North West to see that the many dams that have been built the last 100 years have not only helped arrest major devastating floods, but have contributed tens of $Trillions in economic development of all kinds, including assisting to win WW2 with the aluminum smelters and factories that supplied the materials and energy to win the war. Not to mention the irrigation water that feeds us and creates a huge agriculture industry that allows us to have 7.5 billion population that in itself, is worth trillions of dollars.

There is always pro’s and con’s to every development we make, just like burning fossil fuels the last 200 years has led to a majority of improvement for human kind. But real pollution was a major headache for quite a long time until we learnt to clean up most of the particulate pollution from fossil fuels, at least in the first world. Now we have a war on ‘carbon’ that threatens to send us back to the dark ages. Let’s not ever make a mistake that advocates tearing down our dams and depriving ourselves of the many benefits that we get from regulating and utilizing water behind dams for the betterment of humanity.

Walter Sobchak
May 9, 2019 7:48 pm

And we are supposed to better off if we carpet bomb out land with wind mills, an cover hundreds of square miles of land with solar cells.

May 9, 2019 8:19 pm

“But since the Chinese government built hydropower dams upstream, the waters now drop too low for the catfish to lay their eggs.”

Doesn’t the nonsense get better and better; or is that sillier and sillier.

A) What about the terrific eco-China communist tyranny that can dictate solutions to the world’s problems?


“There is a great deal that experts still don’t know about the life of the Mekong Giant Catfish. Many of the behaviors that it takes part in remain a mystery for it.”

As the rainy season begins the Mekong Giant Catfish will start to spawn and move upstream. Only the larger ones will be able to mate as size is what determines it, not their age. They do grow very quickly though and most of the time they are able to mate by the time they are 6 years old.”

Almost everything about the catfish is speculated, not known!

Most of the articles about the catfish claim is is endangered, except a catfish that lives to great age and size and starts spawning by age 6 is difficult to endanger. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the catfish spawns at sexual maturity much earlier than 6 years.

“The Mekong River, one of the world’s largest, traverses six Southeast Asian countries”

“The Lao government plans to build nine dams on the mainstream Mekong, and hundreds more on other rivers and tributaries, claiming that this is the only path to development for one of the region’s poorest countries.”

“On the other side of the ledger, energy from 11 scheduled dams may yield economic benefits valued at $33.4 billion according to an international study on hydropower impacts on the Mekong based at Mae Fa Luang University in Chiang Rai.”

Well, whaddya know?
Deny the poorer countries loans for coal and fossil fuel energy production facilities and they decide to build the eco-approved dams. Even on high silt-load rivers that will reduce dam capacity rapidly.

“A new WWF report”

This little tidbit was in the background of many articles about the Mekong catfish. NIMBYism at international levels intended to keep poor countries poor.

May 9, 2019 8:35 pm

I see Australia’s Murry River is included. Before the dams were built, the winter rain and snow water would flow, an In bad years the river would stop flowing. It was dammed so long ago, people have forgotten the Great Lakes at the river mouth once held a thriving salt water ecology. Its now fresh.
The problem is consumption exceeds supply. The major city near the river mouth, Adelaide, has reasonable rain. Good luck finding households capturing the rain, no tanks. So it is constantly short.

May 9, 2019 9:32 pm

We had some academics in Australia a few years ago saying some things about dams that’s one of the dumbest things I’ve ever read anywhere.

(Paraphrased): ‘dams don’t do what they are supposed to do. During drought they don’t fill with water when it’s needed, and during floods they fill with too much water when it’s not needed. Therefore we shouldn’t build dams anymore.’

Thank goodness this kind of intellectual nonsense gets undermined by people continually being born with common sense, and unaffected by this nonsense. They mitigate against excess, pure and simple-they store water for droughts and reduce flooding during floods. I thought to myself if this is the standard of academia then god help us.

May 9, 2019 9:43 pm

There is an issue with hydro dams that is not widely discussed.
Some years ago when I was white-water kayaking our group did a run below a power dam.
It was a very pleasant “rock garden” Class 3 rapid.
The water was a good level and we had some fun, but there was something missing.
They had taken the electricity out of the water and it just wasn’t the same.

william Johnston
Reply to  Bob Hoye
May 10, 2019 6:21 am

Evidently you didn’t go downstream far enough. After the “fun” part is done, there is still lots of turbulence occurring in the stream. This turbulence exposes more of the surface of the water to be exposed to the charging effects of the sun. As a side benefit, it also oxygenates the water. The water above the dam is sluggish due to the large charge it is carrying. Similar to our condition after eating a large meal. When the charge is removed by the turbines, it is rejuvenated and moves much more actively. And the larger the difference in elevation between intake and outlet and the number of turbines employed, the greater the turbulence.

[“charge” =? “sediment retained in the river water”? “Water running the turbines” ? .mod]

william Johnston
Reply to  william Johnston
May 10, 2019 9:45 am

No, I refer to the electrical charge. Sediment for the most part is deposited where the river enters the reservoir and the velocity decreases. Water flows thru the penstock to the turbines where the electricity is removed. Hence Mr. Bob Hoye’s concern.

Reply to  william Johnston
May 10, 2019 10:46 am

I hope that the water being charged by the sun and the generators
removing the charge and converting it to electricity is tongue in cheek.

william Johnston
May 10, 2019 3:48 pm

How else could we explain Mr. Hoye’s observation that the stream flow was just not the same??
What other explanation could there be? Any other suggestion would be welcome.

Rod Evans
May 9, 2019 11:17 pm

I am struggling to keep up with the unfolding Green/Socialist’s ongoing project to demonise energy.
The COGS (constantly offended green socialists) movement, seems to have gained ground since the 1960’s when they discovered nuclear energy was plentiful, and thus, must be stopped at all cost. The associated damage and real threat to life from nuclear weapons, afforded a ready point of fear and focus for them to develop. The CND started out with possibly good intentions, but then morphed into something else, becoming anti nuclear of any kind. CND now stands for Crush Nuclear Development.
The “let’s ban nuclear” COGS, then advanced into “let’s ban fossil fuels of any kind”. This happened as the world started to seriously industrialise, with China and India leading the growth curve in fossil fuel usage. Again, it was a coordinated effort by the Green/Socialists to find an image to project, that would resonate with the public. Step forward coal, with its black stack outpourings of ” Carbon”/ soot, it served their purpose well. Coal is now all but banned, in western economies with massive destruction of coal infrastructure, from mines through to electricity generating plants. The EU inspired 2008 Environment Act here in the UK, will see all coal fired generating plants closed in less than five years.
Then came the call to ban oil and all associated oil products. This includes gas, the enhancing of gas outflows and of course plastics. The efforts of the COGS so far, is to virtually block fracking here in the UK. INEOS continues to fight to frack, but ironically its an uphill struggle, against the institutional resistance now firmly established by the socialists on planning committees up and down the country.
So nuclear is banned, Coal is banned, oil/Gas is under huge threat, because they too are fossil fuels, and we must not forget that dirty soot or “Carbon”, must we.
Now we see the focus is turning to hydro plants and their dams. Hydro energy, for most people epitomises, the ultimate sustainable reliable (mostly), power supply. The COGS want it outlawed. They will start off quietly raising associated wildlife issues. “The fish can’t migrate”, or “cant survive due to level change” or some other fauna is under threat, due to flow rates. The Great Crested Newt usually gets rolled into the environmental argument when any project “must be stopped”, here in the UK.
Even wood is now selected as a target to “off limit”, as a stand by domestic fuel option, because that reduces biodiversity, ….apparently, and don’t think sequential planting of cropped woodlands will pass the COGS ability to complain either. Always remember, the Constantly Offended Green Socialists are constantly offended!!
So, where are we in energy options?
No nuclear.
No coal.
No Oil,
No Gas.
No Hydro.
No Wood.
No wind when it doesn’t blow.
No sun when it doesn’t show.
No large beasts of burden either as they produce methane.
Please, see what is happening to the world’s energy options via the Green Socialists. and reflect.
We have to stop these latter-day Luddites and fast. If we don’t, it will be back to hand sowing, hand sewing and hand wringing. The end of mechanisation could be upon us.

Gunga Din
May 10, 2019 6:28 am

Whether the dam is to supply power, water for drinking and/or irrigation, flood control, a consistent level to allow reliable barge traffic etc.; a dam is infrastructure that needs to be maintained.
What would happen to most large urban areas without what all those “Greenless” dams provide?
Not enough drinking water. Not enough power. Not enough food without enough water to irrigate the rural farmland. Not enough … etc.
(And, of course, more flash floods that will be blamed on climate change.)

May 10, 2019 11:09 am

I took a guided tour of the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia river in
2008. A greenie asked the Ranger when the dam was scheduled to be

The Ranger seemed to indicate that there was a schedule for all the
dams on the Columbia to be removed but that he could not share the

If anyone knows that the deep state had a plan to make the Columbia
a free river again, I would like the report.

I lived just off the Columbia in the ’40s and ’50s. The Columbia in spring
flood was awesome.

I told the Ranger that I didn’t think that the massive economic benefits
of flood control, electric generation, and massive amount of fertile land
would be allowed to be lost to the warped sense of order of greens.

Think of the devastation to the beer industry, the loss of all those hops
grown in eastern Oregon.

Richard Patton
May 10, 2019 8:06 pm

It won’t happen-the ranger was just trying to keep the watermelon happy. If the dams were to be removed, the cities of Portland and Vancouver would be flooded on an annual basis, Eastern Oregon and Washington would return to desert, Idaho’s agriculture (including it’s famous potatoes) would be history, Microsoft, Boeing, Amazon, Intel and a score of other major business would have to leave. To remove the dams would return the Pacific Northwest to a wilderness. Remember, the greens don’t even want a hunting and fishing economy. If they got their way with everything they are against we would back to the Stone Age-literally.

Navy Bob
May 10, 2019 1:40 pm

This may have been asked and answered, but I’ve never understood why something can’t be done to enable fish migration over dams. I know there are fish ladders, but apparently they don’t do the trick, or migration interference wouldn’t still be an issue. Surely an engineering solution would require minimal technological expertise.

Reply to  Navy Bob
May 11, 2019 5:33 am

Fish ladders hyper-oxygenate the water, killing or weaken a substantial
percentage of the migrating fish.

The best, but very expensive method I observed, was a very large crane
with a large bucket dipping into the migrating fish and gently depositing
up or down stream, depending on the season. This was done from the
time flow was impeded until the ladders were finished.

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