Alternatives to Dams

We are well aware of what a dam actually means, be it the definition that states that dams are a barrier that impounds water or underground streams or from being able to suppress floods, provide water for activities such as irrigation, human consumption, industrial use, aquaculture, and navigability. Apart from all these benefits we are also familiar with its disadvantages like high cost for constructing the dam, they must operate for many decades to become profitable, flooding of large areas of land, rehabilitation of people, serious geological damage and the dam might give under the weight of water in the lake leading to deaths and flooding, etc.

Alternatives to Dams


Keeping in mind the considerable disadvantages related to dams one does consider the alternatives that might be feasible. Dams are known to alter the natural flow regime and with it virtually every aspect of a river ecosystem, including water quality, sediment transport and deposition, fish migrations and reproduction and riparian and floodplain habitat and the organisms that rely on this habitat. Hence, we must come to the conclusion that dams are hardly the only way to meet the demand for water, whether it’s new demand due to population growth or to adjust to altered precipitation or runoff patterns resulting from climate change. For these alternatives to actually stand a chance, one must first understand the water requirements of the community.


Once the demand is understood, we can proceed to the alternatives that are feasible in nature. The conservation and efficient use of water is not a topic to be trifled with, neither it is one to be extensively discussed on, going ahead with the assumption that we are educated enough to comprehend its importance. Reuse of water or water recycling or reclamation in which water reuse refers to the use of treated sewage, gray water or stormwater for non-potable purposes such as irrigation, industrial processes, fire protection and toilet flushing, among others. Another option is groundwater recharge which involves recharging underground water sources during a wet year or a season when water is available. Re-operation of existing dams is quite a good option. In the sense changing the way an existing dam is used is typically cheaper and less harmful to the environment than building a new dam and in most cases re-operating a dam goes to mean that it can provide water for cities, farms, and fish during critical times of year without major environmental, energy production or flood protection drawbacks.

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Practise This Question

Which is the country having the largest number of hydroelectric dams?