Hydropower changes the environment in drastic, often negative ways

Drought and warmer water create higher methane emissions via organic-rich sediment’s exposure to the sun. Research across the scientific community validates a dangerous reality about hydropower: it is one unmistakable emissions source. Construction, downstream biomatter and geo-reengineering raise greenhouse levels. How?

Input from carbon-rich water bodies accelerates this process. This sediment overruns the original landscape, which perpetuates a vicious cycle when dam debris absorbs contaminants over time. Rainforests have stores of gas released too by reservoirs. Drainage causes an arid land pattern since the targeted area no longer experiences natural flow.

This process also boostsCH4 emissions, due to shallow water depth's affinity with methane. Tepid water is proven as a substantial source. Lake Wohlen research revealed this in Switzerland (International Rivers Network).

Greenhouse gases are made or freed through reservoir construction and unaccounted-for ecology

Reservoirs create a volatile bubbling reaction that brings carbon and methane to the surface. They account for 1/3 total greenhouse gases (in 2006 at that) (Nature). Methanogenesis, or methane generation, has been ignored within midlatitude climates since tropical reservoirs are normally the culprit.

Climate bases its pattern on land health, or proper biome structure. Climatic zone, river shape and volume, flora quantity all consequently affect a reservoir’s emission(s) (International Rivers Network). Water entry through dams is the key culprit.

The infrastructure and surrounding systems become vulnerable

Watersheds are ecologically fragile areas for hydro-development: a fact known since 2006 by the Kyoto Protocol's governing board (International Rivers Network). It is especially harmful when dams disrupt eco-standards, villages, rainforests through drought or flooding. Laos faced that catastrophe in 2018. Faulty standards preceded Xe-Pian-Namnoy's fatal collapse in Attapeu.

20 lives were immediately lost and 6,000 forcibly displaced afterwards (VOA). Xe-Pian-Namnoy is one unsettling example of hydropower's cost. The Mekong River relies on several estuaries. Yet Laos government planned 50 hydropower projects that year.

What happens when dams reach a saturation point like Conowingo Dam, which is the Susquehanna River's biggest and oldest (plus Baltimore's emergency water supply)? (Yale) Disaster will strike. Rainfall washes polluted sediment downstream into other infrastructure. Record amounts spike phosphorus as well (Chesapeake Bay).

Some hydropower projects release more GHG than petroleum in the beginning stages. (Conservation Law Foundation) Consistent greenhouse gas leaks arunsustainable. Hydropower receives carbon credit when it wields eco-damage. Route construction is resource-intensive and not often counted as a GHG source either. Bolsonaro’s 15-dam plan bypasses ethical power for Amazon River hydro-profit. (Mongabay)

Who sustains dams? Private interest, multinational banks, government and their collected taxes do. Who has been affected? The Mekong Delta and Warufuji in Tanzania's Rufiji Delta, the Amazon to Asia has been. Soon everyone in the world may be!

Covering up the research, preventing a solution

Why haven’t many citizens today heard of this problem? Hydropower data is often funded by pro-hydropower companies or organizations. They attack findings that place them in a framework of corporate emissions and responsibility. The battle for clean energy has haunted hydropower for decades. (International Rivers Network)

The U.S. National Hydropower Association personally responded to International Rivers Network in a press release that stated: “It’s baloney and it’s much overblown...Methane is produced quite substantially in the rain forest and no one suggests cutting down the rain forest.”

Several industries actually do though, which is why massive deforestation causes critical fires and methanogenesis in rain forest regions (MAAP Project). This intensifies with drought.

COPPE published a reservoir study in 2005 jointly with Brazilian hydropower utility company, Eletrobrás. Hydro-Québec took their stance a step further: a 730-page Springer volume by four different academic staff. The International Hydropower Association still are business affiliaties with Hydro-Québec.

Solutions to hydropower

Yale's 360 department brain-stormed a genius solution: reservoir land and power conversion into real, renewable connectivity. Initiatives can use solar, wind or even biomatter for necessary energy. Yale 360 cites Maine's Sebasticook tributary undamming, and the resurgence of three million herring fish as a no-hydropower success story. Species could potentially experience a 1000% return rate after dam removal! (Yale)

The Penobscot River model reassessed hydroelectricity, and this reopened mainstem tributary channels for wildlife safety. Now over 10 fish species thrive throughout 1,000-mile river wetland (Penobscot River Restoration Project). Countless opportunities have returned to Sebasticook's local environment. Priorities must involve nature, or else we cannot count on Earth's future, let alone our own.

Seagrass' protection and marine botany are invaluable barriers to rising sea level. 10% of oceanic carbon is contained in these fields worldwide, and they cover 0.2% of Earth. Mallorca gives us hope in seagrass strength: it softens force by 50% or more, and even prevents deadly algae blooms. A healthy acre holds triple the amount of rainforest carbon.

Seagrass significantly decreases wave amplitude. So it should not be excluded from climate change discussions (Science Daily). $4 trillion benefit is linked to underwater vegetation too. Hydropower cannot continue in its current, promoted form.

Costs of Hydro-Québec and Northern Pass Hydropower (Conservation Law Foundation, 7-14)

Reservoir Emissions (International Rivers Network)