Hydro-Power and the Waikato River Hydro electricity in New Zealand is becoming one of the most popular forms of generating electricity. Along the Waikato River alone there are 9 hydro power plants that make up approximately 13% of New Zealand’s total electricity needs. But using hydro-electricity has many impacts on both the environment and the people around it. There are a lot of benefits but also a number of disadvantages.
Throughout this report I will examine the positive and negative impacts that hydropower has on the environment and on people. Impacts on the environment Hydro electricity is a renewable source of energy which means it has a positive impact on the environment. Hydro-electricity generation uses the energy from running water to generate electricity without altering or reducing the quantity of water, so it is a clean, cheap way to produce electricity.
A modern hydro-power plant can convert up to 90% of the total energy it uses to into electricity with minimal waste by-products like carbon dioxide emissions and greenhouse gases. This makes hydro-power a very cost effective and sustainable way to provide electricity to New Zealanders while also helping to reduce pollution in the air and improve air quality. Unfortunately, hydro power can also have a detrimental effect on the Waikato River environment.
Dams built to create reservoirs for hydro power stations disrupt the rivers natural flow and can cause changes in the surface temperature of water or the amount of dissolved gases in the river. When water flow is slowed, by storage in a reservoir for example, the temperature may rise and if water is released from the top of the dam, the warmer water may cause a temperature rise downstream which can affect the nutrient levels and the habitats of fish and other species that reside in the river.
Also, since turbine gates are often opened intermittently, daily fluctuations in river levels, occur which can affect riverbanks and any riparian zones along the river, for instance at the Aratiatia rapids, a popular tourist attraction on the Waikato, water is released from the dam at regular intervals throughout the day at up to 90,000 litres per second. Then, as gates are closed, the turbulence slows to a placid stream. This can create powerful surges further downstream causing erosion of soils and vegetation, or even flooding.
These surges destroy the natural flow of the river and alter the seasonal changes that many plants and aquatic species depend on to trigger natural growth and reproduction cycles. Impacts on people Hydro power projects can provide great opportunities for economic growth in a particular area. During the construction phase, there can be a large influx of workforce and outside labour resulting in the development of economic facilities to cater for this increase in needs.
Also, the creation of a reservoir provides the community and tourists with a lake for recreational purposes such as waterskiing, boating, and camping/picnicking, for example Lake Maraetai, which is close to both Tokoroa and Mangakino townships, plus its beautiful scenic location makes it a popular stopover spot for tourists and an excellent getaway weekend for residents nearby. A negative impact that hydro-power plants can have is associated with the transformation of land use, and the displacement of people living in the reservoir area.
Relocating people living in the reservoir area is the hardest aspect of hydro power to deal with. Concerns of local culture, religious beliefs, historical sites and how the community feels that power plants will affect the native environment all have to be dealt with and there can never be a 100% satisfactory solution to unwanted relocation or flooding of a historical site. Hydro-power plants provide many benefits for people and the environment including opportunities for recreation and improved air quality, but they also have disadvantages like disruption of natural processes and flows in the river.
Hydro power is also a clean, cost effective renewable energy source that harnesses the raw power of the Waikato River to provide New Zealanders with consistent and reliable electricity as and when they need it, however it has a severe adverse affect on the natural biodiversity and ecosystem. Bibliography www. powerscorecard. org http://www. internationalrivers. org/en/node/1476 http://www. newzealand. com ——————————————– [ 1 ]. http://www. youtube. com/watch? v=D6BD_WMoqwA