11:32 am - Monday May 28, 2012

Dams

A dam is a barrier that impounds water or underground streams. Dams generally serve the primary purpose of retaining water, while other structures such as floodgates or levees (also known as dikes) are used to manage or prevent water flow into specific land regions. Hydropower and pumped-storage hydroelectricity are often used in conjunction with dams to generate electricity. A dam can also be used to collect water or for storage of water which can be evenly distributed between locations.

Types of Dams

By Structure
Timber Dams
Arch-Gravity Dams
Embankment Dams
Masonry Dams

By Subtypes
Arch Dams
Gravity Dams
Barrages Dams
Embankment Dams
Rock-fill Dams
Earth-fill Dams

By Use
Saddle Dams
Weir Dams
Check Dams
Dry Dams
Diversionary Dams
Tailings Dams

By Material
Steel Dams
Timber Dams

damAdvantages of Dams

1. Once a dam is constructed, electricity can be produced at a constant rate.
2. If electricity is not needed, the sluice gates can be shut, stopping electricity generation. The water can be saved for use another time when electricity demand is high.
3. Dams are designed to last many decades and so can contribute to the generation of electricity for many years / decades.
4. The lake that forms behind the dam can be used for water sports and leisure / pleasure activities. Often large dams become tourist attractions in their own right.
5. The lake’s water can be used for irrigation purposes.
6. The build up of water in the lake means that energy can be stored until needed, when the water is released to produce electricity.
7. When in use, electricity produced by dam systems do not produce green house gases. They do not pollute the atmosphere.

Disadvantages of Dams

1. Dams are extremely expensive to build and must be built to a very high standard.
2. The high cost of dam construction means that they must operate for many decades to become profitable.
3. The flooding of large areas of land means that the natural environment is destroyed.
4. People living in villages and towns that are in the valley to be flooded, must move out. This means that they lose their farms and businesses. In some countries, people are forcibly removed so that hydro-power schemes can go ahead.
5. The building of large dams can cause serious geological damage. For example, the building of the Hoover Dam in the USA triggered a number of earth quakes and has depressed the earth’s surface at its location.
6. Although modern planning and design of dams is good, in the past old dams have been known to be breached (the dam gives under the weight of water in the lake). This has led to deaths and flooding.
7. Dams built blocking the progress of a river in one country usually means that the water supply from the same river in the following country is out of their control. This can lead to serious problems between neighbouring countries.
8. Building a large dam alters the natural water table level. For example, the building of the Aswan Dam in Egypt has altered the level of the water table. This is slowly leading to damage of many of its ancient monuments as salts and destructive minerals are deposited in the stone work from ‘rising damp’ caused by the changing water table level.

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