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Why Do We Build Dams?

We used to build dams for storage. Now, we build dams to provide water for fish.

Oct 24, 2014

It might seem like an unlikely question to ask, but we have to ask why we build dams. There used to be an easy answer to this, and it's still an easy answer, but it's not the same answer. We used to build dams for storage. Now, we build dams to provide water for fish. I guess that still qualifies as storage, but not storage for humans.

The article below about a recent study spells this out. The article points out the "
the scientists evaluated 753 large dams in the state. Researchers said 25 percent, or 181 California dams, may need to increase water flows to protect native fish downstream."


Lead study author Ted Grantham is quoted as saying, "It is unpopular in many circles to talk about providing more water for fish during this drought, but to the extent we care about not driving native fish to extinction, we need a strategy to keep our rivers flowing below dams.”

Brett Walton, a water blogger at Circle of Blue wrote in June that "the bureau (of reclammation) released a feasibility study last month for the $US 2.6 billion Temperance Flat project. Contrary to nearly every dam, Temperance Flat’s primary justification is not water supply, but environmental restoration. The dam will increase supplies for cities and farmers by a piddling amount, but its main purpose is storing cold water to help revive fish habitat in the San Joaquin River."

We would just like to point out that building dams doesn't do us any good if there isn't a change in the direction of what California is going to do with the water it captures.

By the way, scroll to the bottom of the article to see who paid for the study. Clue: NRDC




Study: 181 California Dams Key For Fish Survival


Ed Joyce. Capitol Radio


UC Davis researchers have identified “high priority” dams for fish survival in California.


In a study, the scientists evaluated 753 large dams in the state. Researchers said 25 percent, or 181 California dams, may need to increase water flows to protect native fish downstream.


Lead study author Ted Grantham said providing more water for fish during the drought may not be popular, but a strategy is needed to keep rivers flowing below dams. Otherwise, he said flows will be too low to sustain health fish populations for the dams on the “high priority” list.


He said those include the Folsom Dam on the American River, the Trinity Dam on the Trinity River and the New Melones Dam on the Stanislaus River.


A 2013 UC Davis study showed that salmon and other native freshwater fish in California will likely become extinct within the next century due to climate change if current trends continue.
Grantham said how dams are managed will determine the survival rate of many native fish species.


“It is unpopular in many circles to talk about providing more water for fish during this drought, but to the extent we care about not driving native fish to extinction, we need a strategy to keep our rivers flowing below dams,” said Grantham, a postdoctoral researcher at UC Davis during the study and currently a research scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey. “The drought will have a major impact on the aquatic environment.”


The study received funding from the Natural Resources Defense Council, California Trout, Trout Unlimited, the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation, and the California Energy Commission Public Interest Energy Research Program.
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