Environmental effects on reservoirs

Environmental effects on reservoirs by Jennifer Lamb

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  • The environmental effects of reservoirs
    • Changes in river flow
      • Water may be abstracted from the reservoir to consumers
        • The flow regime downstream would be the same although volume would be reduced
      • Holding water back during times of surplus to ensure adequate river flow in times of shortage so that water can be abstracted from the river further downstream
        • Reduces risk of flooding downstream but also reduces period of lower flow which is important for some species
          • River turtles lay their eggs in sandbanks
        • Periods of rapid flow are important to wash away sediments from gravel riverbeds, where salmon and trout lay their eggs
      • Flow fluctuations can change river erosion and sedimentation and therefore development of meanders
    • Reservoir microclimate
      • Large body of water in the reservoir may change the local climate
        • High heat capacity of water helps to reduce temperature fluctuations
          • Warmer winter and cooler in summer
      • Water provides less friction than land, so wind speeds will be higher
      • Greater evaporation from the reservoir surface may increase humidity, cloud cover and precipitation downwind of reservoir
    • Habitat change
      • Flooding the reservoir destroys previous habitats but can create new and possibly valuable ones
        • Wetlands are uncommon habitats in most regions
      • The dam and the reservoir act as a barrier to wildlife such as salmon and strugeon that migrate along rivers
      • Species in the river will have population booms and collapses
    • Sedimentation
      • Sediments that settle in the reservoir will no longer be carried further downsteam
        • Important to fertilise floodplain downstream during times of flood
        • Important in helping to build up riverbanks and coastlines and counteract erosion

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