A dam is a physical infrastructure constructed on the natural stream and the rivers to control the natural water flow and prevent the water from being wasted.
During the monsoon, torrential rainfall could result in a flash flood within a fraction of a second. In such conditions, dams can aid in controlling the overflow of water.
Since the globe is gradually shifting to the renewable energy era, electricity generation from hydropower could be one of the ideal alternatives to tackle the issues of the energy crisis in the present context.
How do you feel about the exciting journey the dams contribute to the water resources? Let us take you to the significant pros and cons of the dams.
Table of Contents
Pros of the dams
1. Extensive hydropower production
When it accounts for dams, it aids in producing large amounts of hydroelectric energy from hydropower.
Dam establishment for the hydropower purpose is one of the effective solutions in meeting the steady demand for energy supply globally.
Hydroelectric power is a clean, renewable source of energy. Globally, 15.9% of electricity production is from hydroelectric power plants.
2. Water clean up
The technological advancement in this 21st century has made the globe more compressive and smaller.
Fortunately, with all the technological advancement, you can build a dam that aims to clean up the water via several filters.
Eradicating the unwanted excessive algae and organisms from the water body improves the quality of water resources in both the reservoir created by the dam and the downstream.
3. Reservoirs for leisure
You can use dams for a variety of purposes to pass the time if you reside near the reservoirs. For instance:
- Going fishing
- Enjoying the scenic beauty of the reservoir
- Boating and,
In one way, it can increase our quality of life and thus aids in ecosystem services. You don’t need to search longer distances to enjoy the natural reservoirs.
4. Advantageous river sediments
River sediments do provide valuable habitats for aquatic creatures. Several reservoirs host multiple invasive species that entail snails and algae.
The sediment deposited after the dam construction could drastically alter the chemical composition and the temperature, which may be favorable to some thriving aquatic organisms.
5. Regular local water supply
A large reservoir by the construction of the dam is clean enough for drinking water.
After effective testing for water quality, the reservoir stored water could be used for drinking purposes, adopting several water cleaning procedures during the water scarcity.
Upon doing so, it assures the residents of the regular flow of the water supply.
The regions with low rainfall could use the dam reservoir to wash and shower. Thankfully, the reservoirs have been supporting locals to thrive.
6. Source of recreation
Dam construction can be one of the ideal options for recreational purposes.
For instance: your city’s lifestyle is always confined to day and night work, long stressful hours working, and rearing your children; you could not have much more time to spare for nature.
If you wish to leave the city, relaxing and enjoying your weekends with your colleagues and family in a reservoir can be an excellent notion.
7. Field irrigation
When it comes to irrigation purposes, dams have always provided relief to farmers. Irrigation is substantial to achieve the maximum merits from agriculture production.
Most significantly, dams are vital in ensuring continuous water for irrigation in the southern hemisphere, where water has always been scarce.
8. Controllable water flows
Without the construction of dams, you cannot control the natural flow of the vulnerable rivers.
Establishing dams on rivers makes it possible to control the water flow and make it convenient to use it upon our willingness.
It is one of the reasonable measures to control the water flow. The crucial merit you could achieve from dam establishment is upon the drought condition.
You could sustainably use the water for numerous purposes. And to regulate the water supply in any region, dams are considered foremost.
9. Flood control
The primary advantage you could revive from the dam is the protection of locals from the floods.
When torrential rainfall occurs, the body of water comes and sweeps away the whole settlement within a short period.
Large numbers of human life could be victims of this sudden flooding issue.
But with dams, you could store the rainfall amount in reservoirs. It restricts from sweeping away massive settlements, and people could get at least a bit of relief.
10. Storing of waste products (Tailing Dams)
Ever wondered about the tailing dams? This dam quite varies from that of the water dams.
It is used massively to store toxic waste products from mining operations. It assures the environment from being polluted widely.
11. Local employment
Intended to construct of a dam is a considerable effort, and the well-established pre-plan is substantial. Thankfully, it creates several jobs for the locals.
Various work remains associated with the hydropower plants inside the dams, such as timely maintenance, monitoring, and auditing jobs.
When the project is launched extensively, it will offer a wide range of job opportunities and may eradicate the issues regarding poverty and unemployment rates.
The dam construction could be a milestone for some people in poor developing countries with limited economic infrastructure and people who lack well-paid occupations.
12. Environment protection
The Federal Emergency Management Agency revealed that the dam’s construction is helpful for environmental protection because it aids conveniently in river transportation and reduces the risk of water-borne accidents.
Layered Water levels of dams trap the hazardous substances present in the water.
The dam acts as the protector of the aquatic ecosystem. It regulates the whole water cycle from evaporating to returning as rain.
13. Site of tourists attraction
Throughout the globe, several dams are being constructed at a larger spatial scale. For instance: let us consider the Grand Coulee dam, Hoover dam, Hirakud dam, and many more.
These dams have attracted millions of tourists per year. Since tourists spend money during their stay in restaurants and hotels, it could be one of the perfect opportunities for better earnings.
It promotes the local municipalities’ revenue, thus contributing to the increment in GDP.
14. Increment inability of food production
With the dam construction, it controls the overwater flows. Under such circumstances, the farmers could harvest more agricultural production. Enough water in agriculture activities enhances yield maximization.
The regions where the local people of developing countries devote their life working in the field may promote better crop production by controlling the overwater flow.
15. Inland water transportation
Upon the dam’s construction, it opens the door for the waterways. Even a few decades back, people transported the goods on the waterways created by the dam.
Still, you could visualize some countries practicing transporting the goods via waterways. The dam is advantageous in supplying the goods and fulfilling the customer’s demand.
Cons of the dams
1. Chances of Dam breakage
You may have heard about the dam breakage. Have not you? The dam may eventually fail when there is a low quality of the used constructive materials and the construction procedures.
Sometimes you may have sought that because of a mistake in maintenance.
The dams can break massively, affecting the entire ecosystem. After the dam’s breakage, extensive water will flood the downstream valleys and the cities.
A large number of people may suffer through such unexpected incidents. Thus, deciding the locations before constructing a dam is significant.
2. Extended time for dam construction
A dam is a long-term infrastructure approach intended to control the natural water.
The length and time vary according to the dam construction project’s size, complexity, and funding.
When the big dam is to be built up, it could even go longer for decades. Unfortunately, it requires an extensive period from the dam construction commencement to the final stage.
Constructing a dam requires wider regions. Ever sought on how dam construction destroys the natural landscapes? You might have.
Pasture areas and extensive forest lands are cleared only to build a dam.
Deforestation at an alarming rate could have cascade effects on the environment since clearing dramatic forest lands releases carbon dioxide levels into the atmosphere at an ample rate.
4. Requires paramount maintenance and adjustments
Regular maintenance is paramount to prevent the dam from failure. It costs very high because you should check every material and equipment on time. Regular monitoring is too essential to carry.
It is better recommended to decide on whether the dam is favorable to be built in the prescribed regions or not.
If there is a malfunctioning of the devices and the materials, it requires maintenance initially and does hold the cost higher.
5. Higher construction cost
Dam construction requires billions of USD. During the dam construction, a considerable effort in planning processes requires extensive cost up to the phase of the power generation in a dam.
The cost of the dam construction depends upon its scale, the regions to be constructed, the labor required, and much more.
6. Erodes surrounding soil
There is no guarantee that dam construction is beneficial in controlling soil erosion. Despite controlling the waterways, sometimes the surrounding land may get eroded.
You can seek the historical cases of the Three Gorges Dam in China and the Nile Delta of northern Egypt.
The sediments may drop in the river, thereby causing profound consequences to the fertile land nearby the river areas and degrading it heavily.
7. Expert requirement
Everyone does not have the information to control a dam’s water flows. Thus, for this, experts are required.
At the same time, releasing the water may not be possible. The water, infrastructure, and technical experts must be present and operate to prevent construction accidents.
These experts are very few as compared to other sectors. As needed, the municipality may find difficulty in finding out the right experts to make positive changes in the dam and operate them wisely.
In those regions with fewer education restrictions, it may be challenging to bring the expert to repair and maintain the dam upon need.
8. Alteration in sedimentation pattern
The fundamental issue after the dam construction is the alteration in the sedimentation pattern of the rivers.
When there is control in the natural water flow, most troublingly, the sediments that get settled in a particular area in the river will also get altered.
In turn, the nutrient level of the water may change, and the situation arises where the aquatic creatures become compelled to adjust to the new environment.
It indeed hampers the natural capacity for the survival of the organism. If the aquatic creatures cannot adapt to the new environment, they may force themselves to move from their original regions.
How does it affect the creatures? Have you ever wondered? Sadly, it drastically affects the organism’s reproductive, feeding, and breeding behavior for a prolonged period.
9. Methane production
The reservoir created by a dam may release massive methane concentrations. During methane production, plant materials may decompose in the water bodies.
Because of methane production, hydropower may not be a reliable source of electricity generation.
10. Disruption of the groundwater table
Concerning the ground table, the dam construction could result in unexpected adverse outcomes.
For instance, when there is leakage from the constructed dams, there is a rise in the water table, and ultimately it carries the stored salts to various routes such as the river waterways and the soil.
There is an increment in the salinity level in the groundwater table once there is a disturbance in the natural recharging system.
11. Challenges during drought
During droughts, huge discussions and conflicts might occur on how to flow the water being layered by the dams.
When there is hydropower, it should fulfill the desire of the local communities. One community may lead one decision while the other may disagree.
In such a situation, their conflicting decisions may result in difficulty in leading the right decisions because people have been fighting water scarcity for many years.
12. Hampers on aquatic creatures
The dam construction restricts aquatic creatures such as several migratory fish species from mating in their preferred areas.
For mating, they need to swift to the upstream level, thereby traveling far distances.
Sometimes the dam could suddenly block their way for migration so they can’t reach their mating regions.
Such incidents induce a decrease in the fish species from rivers and lakes.
13. Displace large numbers of people
Because of the dam construction failure, millions of people have been devastated and evacuated.
Once the surrounding areas are flooded, you can no longer use the land for several purposes because of severe dam failures.
People get badly hampered by the dam failure incidents. Knowing the dam engineering structures is critical before constructing a dam.
14. Increment in the algae bloom
When a dam is constructed to slow down the water flow, there is a higher chance of contaminating the algae.
The more algae present in the water often induce a lower oxygen level. When thriving aquatic creatures cannot get enough oxygen for survival, it may alter their metabolism.
At an extensive rate, it may result in fish death when there is oxygen deficiency for them.
Summary (pros and cons of dams)
|Extensive hydropower production|
|Water clean up|
|Reservoirs for leisures|
|Advantages of river sediments|
|Regular water supply|
|Control water flows|
|Storing waste products in Tailing dams|
|Site of tourist attraction|
|Increasing food production|
|Inland water transportation|
|Chances of dam failure|
|Extended time consumption for construction|
|Requires continuous maintenance|
|Higher construction cost|
|Erodes surrounding soil|
|Alteration in sediment pattern|
|Disruption of groundwater table|
|Challenges during drought|
|Hampers aquatic ecosystem|
|Displace a large number of people|
The dams are massively used for electricity generation from hydropower, habitat for several aquatic creatures, source of drinking water to locals, a local economy with employment, ecosystem services, and much more.
While on the other hand, the dams are disadvantageous in the sense that they may fail, there is higher time and cost associated with the dam construction, eroding the land surface, and changes in the sedimentation pattern.
(Last Updated on September 25, 2022)