Human needs have for a long time demanded a lot from nature. The natural water systems have particularly been abused and neglected leading to rapid deterioration and death of various rivers and lakes around the world.
Over time, traditional methods of restoration were created but these methods were ignorant of the needs of the river itself and were just developed either to aid the river ecosystem or to ensure more water downstream. In recent years however, scientist and engineers have come together to develop new river management paradigm whose main focus is to ensure that a river has enough water to remain healthy.
Using this , it is possible to reclaim and restore rivers better as the drive is not to restore rivers according to human perceptions but according to the natural needs of the river.
Research in river management has shown that in certain conditions, the new river management scenario is an improvement over traditional methods. In certain situations, this new river management paradigm is capable of offering more advantages than traditional methods that usually appear shortsighted.
One of the most common source of electric power is hydroelectricity. In the past few years, virtually all countries have erected a hydroelectric power station in one or more rivers.
For example, South Africa constructed the Kariba Dam on Ibwe River which has had adverse impacts on the animal habitats and nearby population. The people of Tonga population had to be relocated in order to pave way for the construction of Kariba reservoir. River Zambezi over years has also been replicated for major worldwide construction of dams.
During the course of generating power, a dam is usually created or the river direction altered in order to meet the human needs. This deviation of the river flow and direction may lead to severe disturbances downstream. Traditional methods call for of rivers such that the river does not dry up downstream.
However, the new paradigm argues that there has to be a full range of flow conditions to ensure that a river is healthy. This argument thus puts forward that at any river through which a hydroelectric power is intended to be set up or has been already been set up, the new management paradigm can be utilized to serve various purposes.
First, it can be used in finding the location to situate the power facility such that the natural flow conditions are not adversely affected. It can also be used to calculate the safe amount of water that can be retained and released to ensure a healthy river flow.
The second scenario is those rivers such as the Amazon and the River basins of northwestern United whose flood plains are used for agriculture. Throughout the ages, people have depended on the natural flow of the rivers to find fertile areas to carry out agriculture. Flood plains offer a very fertile place for planting a variety of foods such as rice.
However, over the past several years, many flood plains have been deteriorating or experiencing erratic flows due to unstable river flows resulting from human interferences. In this instance, the new river management paradigm offers a distinct advantage in flow restoration over traditional methods.
According to Postel and Ritcher (63), even though factors such as interaction between species, food supply and water quality are important in all , the natural flow regime reign supreme as it heavily impacts all the above issues. In order to ensure that the flood plains have sufficient water, scientist should endeavor to restore rivers to their natural conditions and as such, restore floods.
Rivers in which Dams have been built and water is being taken by pumps for irrigation can restore floods at certain times of the year to mimic the natural flow of the river. The dams can release a certain amount of water as per the scientists instructions mimicking natural conditions thus creating floods downstream in a regulated manner.
Finally, the can be used to restore the natural ecosystem of a river. The new river regime was to ensure that 60-100% of the average flow of a river needed to be protected and in order to provide an excellent habitat for the aquatic life only 30-50% of the rivers flow could be needed.
It can be used to nurture the natural wildlife and vegetation within the river ecosystem through restoring natural flows. Disruptions in river flows have lead to the disappearance of fish and other wildlife in the river ecosystem due to unfriendly levels of water in the river as well as pollution. Some fish migrate to better water sources while other face extinction due to the stress posed by poor flows in the river.
Using the such as learning by doing, it is possible to solve two problems inherent in traditional river management practices; the need to restore a river to its optimum health and lack of certainty on how much restoration is enough. Through adaptive management, scientist can study the progress made by various restoration methods and judge whether the river has reached its optimum health to provide water sufficient enough to nurture fish and other wildlife in its ecosystem.
To sum up, traditional methods of river restoration usually call for a flat-line mini mum flow to keep the river flowing. However, it was discovered that the natural flow of a river has a lot of impact on the food supply, interaction between species and water quality. In order to meet various demands, the new river paradigm is a far better choice than traditional methods.
In areas where a new hydroelectric power station is to be created, these new methods can help in finding a suitable location that will not only ensure that the natural flow is not adversely affected but also the main river course is not altered.
Restoration of the river ecological system is also possible through the use of the new river management paradigm as well as fostering agriculture in flood plains. Man has for a long time taken from rivers without giving back. Through the new river management practices, it is possible to restore rivers to their natural states ensuring that these rivers remain healthy for further years.