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What is Hydropower?

Water's power is manifested in hydrology, by the forces of water on the riverbed and banks of a river. When a river is in flood, it is at its most powerful, and moves the greatest amount of sediment. This higher force results in the removal of sediment and other material from the riverbed and banks of the river, locally causing erosion, transport and, with lower flow, sedimentation downstream.

History

Waterwheels, turbines, and mills

In India, water wheels and watermills were built; in Imperial Rome, water powered mills produced flour from grain, and were also used for sawing timber and stone; in China, watermills were widely used since the Han Dynasty.

Hydraulic power-pipe networks

Hydraulic power networks also developed, using pipes to carrying pressurized water and transmit mechanical power from the source to end users elsewhere locally; the power source was normally a head of water, which could also be assisted by a pump.

Compressed air hydro

Where there is a plentiful head of water it can be made to generate compressed air directly without moving parts. A facility on this principle was built on the Montreal River at Ragged Shutes near Cobalt, Ontario in 1910 and supplied 5,000 horsepower to nearby mines.

Environmental Impacts

Although hydropower has no air quality impacts, construction and operation of hydropower dams can significantly affect natural river systems as well as fish and wildlife populations. Although power plants are regulated by federal and state laws to protect human health and the environment, there is a wide variation of environmental impacts associated with power generation technologies.


Water Resource Use

Hydropower often requires the use of dams, which can greatly affect the flow of rivers, altering ecosystems and affecting the wildlife and people who depend on those waters. In addition, some dams withhold water and then release it all at once, causing the river downstream to suddenly flood. This action can disrupt plant and wildlife habitats and affect drinking water supplies.