The most often heard claims in support of large scale hydroelectric development are: (1) hydropower generation is 'clean', (2) water flowing freely to the ocean is 'wasted', and (3) local residents (usually aboriginals) will benefit from the development. These three claims are critically examined using case histories from Canada and elsewhere in the world. The critique is based mainly on journal articles and books, material that is readily available to the public, and reveals that the three claims cannot be supported by fact. Nevertheless, large scale hydroelectric development continues on a worldwide basis. The public needs to be well informed about the environmental and social consequences of large scale hydroelectic development in order to narrow the gap between its wishes for environmental protection and what is really occurring.
Results from a 1995 survey of utility company biologists indicate that aquatic biodiversity is an emerging and poorly understood issue. As a result, there is some confusion about what aquatic biodiverstiy actually is, and how we can best conserve it. Only one fourth (24%) of the respondents said their company has a stated environmental policy that addresses biodiversity. Many respondents indicate that over the years they have not specifically managed for biodiversity, but have been doing that though their efforts to assure balanced indigenous populations. While regulations are still the major driver for biological work, an increasing number of companies are involved in voluntary partnerships in managing water resources. Of these voluntary partnerships, 70% have biodiversity as a goal. Biodiversity is becoming an increasingly common subject of study, and a vast majority (75%) of the respondents suggested it should be a goal for utility resource management. Conservation of aquatic biodiversity is a complex task, and to date most aquatic efforts have been directed toward fish and macroinvertebrates. Ecological research and technological development performed by the utility industry have resulted in a number of successful biopreservation and biorestoration success stories. A common theme to preserving or enhancing aquatic biodiversity is preserving aquatic habitat. Increasingly, ecosystem management is touted as the most likely approach to achieve success in preserving aquatic biodiversity. Several utilities are conducting progressive work in implementing ecosystem management. This paper presents the potential interactions between power plants and biodiversity, an overview of aquatic biodiversity preservation efforts within the electric utility industry, more detail on the results of the survey, and recent initiatives in ecosystem management.
Northern States Power Co. (NSP) is "tremendously excited about wind power" the utility's chairman said. In August 1992 NSP agreed to build or purchase 100MW of electricity from wind machines in southwestern Minnesota by 1998. As part of the compromise that allows NSP to store nuclear waste in large steel casks at Prairie Island, the State Legislature required the utility purchase 425MW of electricity from wind farms by 2002. The NSP chairman cautioned that there may be problems with transmission lines or other concerns, but he said the utility has enough time to work them out. A cooperative project was begun recently to collect data on wind speeds during the next two years at eight sites that have potential for large scale wind farms.
This report presents nearly 500 water value estimates for four withdrawal uses (domestic, irrigation, industrial processing, and thermoelectric power generation) and four instream uses (hydropower, recreation/fish and wildlife habitat, navigation, and waste disposal). The first section discusses important caveats for interpreting the data and the relevance of water values for achieving efficient use of the resource. Tables and graphs are used to summarize and help interpret the water-value data that have been converted to constant 1994 dollars. Section 3 presents the data by geographic region to illustrate how the values within a region vary among uses. Section 4 presents the data for individual water uses to illustrate how the values for specific uses vary within each of the 18water resources regions that comprise the conterminous United States. Information such as the location, year, and methodology used to derive each of the values are presented in the appendices along with each of the water value estimates. The data are organized by water resources region in Appendix B and by type of use in Appendix C.
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