We’re thinking about water…
This challenge dips into another branch of the International Day of Action for Rivers mission. Specifically the effect of dams on fresh-water river eco-systems. This challenge focuses on a complex, vitally important, aspect of rivers known as environmental flow. Anyone who depends on water for life is a stakeholder in the management of environmental flow; and should know about and pay attention to this concept.
This challenge may be a bit more complex than the previous ones this month. However, I found it is worth the effort. I am becoming more aware of the story behind the water that splashes into my hands everyday when I turn on the faucet. This challenge inspires me to reflect about ways I can contribute to keeping the environmental flow in my watershed healthy, and to be better informed of issues faced by local policy-makers, industry, and citizenry as decisions are made that affect our watershed rivers and streams.
Many of Earth’s river systems are moving through stream beds with unhealthy Environmental Flows. Part of the mission for International Day of Action for Rivers is to create awareness about “destructive water development projects, (in order to inspire actions that will) reclaim the health of our watersheds, and demand the equitable and sustainable management of our rivers.”
Environmental Flow: Background information- boldface type added for emphasis of key points-
Cut from source: “Environmental Flow Policies: Moving Beyond Good Intentions” http://www.internationalrivers.org/resources/environmental-flow-policies-moving-beyond-good-intentions-1671(03-13-15)
A river’s flow is its heartbeat. Few human influences are more deadly to freshwater ecosystems than alteration of natural hydrological rhythms. Poorly planned dams and unbalanced and unsustainable water use have brought too many of our river systems to a tipping point.
Because we have interfered with the heartbeat of so many rivers and lakes, our freshwater ecosystems are losing species and habitats faster than any other type of ecosystem. Freshwater plants and animals have evolved with, and intimately depend upon, natural patterns of hydrologic variability. Naturally high and low water levels create habitat conditions essential to reproduction and growth, and drive ecological processes required for ecosystem health. The natural rise of a river following a rainstorm may cue fish to move to spawning grounds, or enable them to move up- or downstream to access food, or freshen the water quality so it is more conducive to growth. Similarly, many wetland and floodplain plants reproduce only under certain flow conditions, such as prolonged flood recession.
Patterns of freshwater flows are crucial for a range of other services provided by river systems. For example, flood pulses move sediment that maintains the form and function of rivers. In sediment-rich rivers, such as the Yellow River in China, this movement of sediment is vital in the ongoing management of flood risk. Seasonal inundation of floodplains and wetlands supports groundwater recharge on which water supplies depend. And, the flow of freshwater to estuaries prevents saline intrusion into coastal aquifers and drinking water supplies. The patterns of river flows are therefore integral to water systems on which people depend.
Environmental flows are the seasonally and annually varying water flows and levels that support ecosystems and human livelihoods while providing for other uses such as hydropower, irrigation, and water supply. Many governments and river-management agencies around the world have developed policies to protect environmental flows, and more are doing so all the time. Yet implementation of these policies remains weak.
Want to learn more?
UNLESS…Earth-friendly Chronicler’s Challenge 6- Taking the Pulse of Your Watershed River’s Heartbeat
This week, take the pulse of the river in your watershed to discover how the natural hydrological rhythms are affected by human influences.
- Some questions to consider might be:
- What are the human-made structures (e.g. dams) in your watershed that impede or alter the flow of the main river or its tributaries?
- What is the purpose of the structure ?
- Economic? Social? Environmental?
- How are changes impacting the patterns of freshwater flow or natural hydrological rhythms?
- What consideration is given to the protection of environmental flow?
- What can you, or do you already do, to improve or maintain a healthy “heartbeat” in the river or streams in your watershed?
The International Day of Action for Rivers comes at an opportune time. It motivates me to read three articles I’ve collected over the course of the last month about a dam in the Tualatin River Watershed. This eco-commerative day focuses me to learn more about the reason we have a dam in the watershed, how it affects our area’s economic, eco-environmental well-being, and social needs. I wonder if maintaining a healthy flow in the watershed is built into the dam project and part of long-range plans for the area. I’m curious to see what I discover when I “Take the pulse of my watershed river’s heartbeat.” This week, I will share what I learn in a separate post.
I hope you will wonder about similar eco-environmental concerns. This week, use your photographs and words to share what you discover…
Look at the Pulse of these Watersheds –
Australia: Lane Cove River
Oregon: Tualatin River Basin
CALIFORNIA: Salinas River / California Drought Situation