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Problems and Benefits of Building a Dam

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Building a DamDams can offer huge benefits in terms of electrical power generation and irrigation.  Many massive dams worldwide are a tribute to the achievements of civil engineering and electrical engineering. These great feats of civil engineering are not without problems, however, and there are potential disadvantages as well as benefits to take into account.

Some Problems with Dam Building

Risk of failure – when a dam fails it can be catastrophic. As recently as recently as 2004 the Big Bay Dam in Mississippi broke destroying nearly fifty homes. It is a major concern in civil engineering to see that dams are safe from hazards such as landslides and earthquakes.

Environmental – dams may destroy wild life habitats, drain wetlands, and cause river pollution by reducing the river flow to a level where the river can no longer self-cleanse.  Farm land can be ruined by salt produced by the irrigation process.

Cost – dams are very expensive to build and may not provide sufficiently economical electrical power generation, water supply, or irrigation.

Some Benefits of Building a Dam

Hydroelectric power - electrical power generation is a major benefit which may be cheaper and environmentally safer than energy derived from fossil fuels or other electrical engineering sources.

Irrigation regions with poor or unpredictable rainfall can be turned into fertile farmland.

Water supply – providing dependable water supply for urban or industrial use.

Flood control – holding back and channeling potentially dangerous water flow.

Famous Dams Worldwide

The Aswan Dam in Egypt, completed in 1970, has a reservoir capacity of nearly 6 trillion cubic feet.

The Hoover Dam in Arizona and Nevada, completed in 1936, generates enough electricity to serve over a million people.

The Three Gorges Dam in China (predicted completion 2009) will be the world’s largest hydroelectric dam and will also provide flood control and irrigation.

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