Why not generate electricity using natural water-falls instead of building dams?

why not generate electricity using water falls

This is so obvious, but I wonder why people do not generate electricity using natural water-falls? In a dam/hydro-electric power station, water is stored in a higher reservoir and made to fall to a lower one (man-made water-falls) and the flowing water turns the blades of a hydro-turbine generator in order to produce electricity. But I feel this is a hopelessly silly idea when we have a natural upper reservoir (mountain tops) where water gets collected due to rain and there are so many perennial water falls around the country!

God has given everything that we need, in abundance. Only greedy people will build dams. Why does anyone want to stop the natural flow of a river at all? Doesn’t it sound like an incredibly stupid idea? Especially considering that hundreds of villages need to be displaced at the time of building dams and some greedy states will hold all the water for themselves and will not give it to others! First of all, building any dam across any river should be banned, IMHO. We’ve had enough inter-state issues due to them.

The pro-dam people will say that dam generates electricity using hydro energy. How it is done? By blocking and storing river water in a large reservoir and sending it down. Who gives anybody the right to block naturally flowing water? If the Government does it, it doesn’t mean that it can be absolved of all the consequences.

Do you know how they store excess electricity generated by this process? They pump water using that electricity to the upper-reservoir and then allow it to flow once again through the turbines! The loss of electricity in this process should be obvious.

What is not so obvious to people is, why pump up water manually when the sun is already ‘pumping up’ water to clouds and depositing it over the hill-tops? The water is already flowing freely through water falls. It has kinetic energy, even more kinetic energy than artificially constructed dams.

People can still argue that the capacity of hydro-electric generators at dams is higher. What stops them from having multiple smaller generators at various points of a water fall and then combining all this energy? Won’t that be sufficient enough? Can’t we have one turbine every 50-100 meters without obstructing the flow of the water falls? Is it so difficult to wire them up?

Another point is irrigation. We have seen how well states cooperate with each other and share water and how a non-committal center complicates this process. Obviously this is going to result in benefiting the states in upper river course and will hamper irrigation elsewhere.

We have had agriculture for so many centuries and it has been doing well without dams. Why construct dams now? If at all, communities can be permitted to construct small storage areas and store some limited quantity of water. How can a Government allow a whole course of a river to be stopped/blocked? Insane.

The destruction to marine life and eco-system is maximum because of a dam. If there is no water, how will fishes/plants survive?

In fact, even flowing water of the river can be used to generate electricity. There is no need to stop the whole river to do this. Only, electricity needs to be tapped at various points using micro-generators and be used at nearby places. Even with this, there maybe some obstruction to aquatic life. But with water falls, the obstruction to aquatic plants and fishes are very minimum. How many times does any fish fall on you while you take bath in a water-fall?

If everything that human civilization represents is going to come down to greed, as we ‘progress’, even God will not help us.

Destination Infinity

Read this article for further info on generating energy from water falls.

Here, you can find an introduction to micro hydro turbines.

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16 Replies to “Why not generate electricity using natural water-falls instead of building dams?”

    1. You are right. Dams store river water to supply drinking water to residents in cities. As this water is available, people in certain cities do not even have wells! At the same time, people in cities down the course of the river do not get sufficient water even from their bore-wells!

      It’s once again the case of greed. It creates excess at one place and scarcity at other places. It makes people to store river water thinking that they may or may not get proper rains afterwards. It creates dependencies and makes people to not even dig wells!

      When there is ground water, why not use that? Why deny others the river water? Why block a whole river? If at all there are some uncertainties, some river water can be diverted and stored elsewhere. There is no need to block the course of a river for that. Of course, there should be upper-limits to how much such water can be diverted.

      Destination Infinity

  1. Interesting post. I am not much of a “science person”. After reading your post, I have a question. Is there any country in the world uses natural water falls to generate electricity?

    1. In the US the Niagara falls was used to generate electricity earlier. Not sure what’s stopping them or anyone else from doing it now.

      Destination Infinity

    1. The capacity of the turbine used in waterfalls might be lesser than what can be used with a hydro-powered dam. I guess we can make up for it by tapping energy from multiple locations of a water falls.

      Destination Infinity

  2. I think the technology and business around Dams are a little more complicated than simply storing water and then generating electricity. I do, however, agree that waterfalls and even running waters in a river can be used to generate energy. In the UK, before electricity became more common, factories use to operate by have a wheel in a river known as ‘waterwheel’ – where running water would move the wheel and hence various gears would make machinery work.

    Since then, electricity has been made quickly and cheaply hence out ran the natural way of developing and storing energy. If I owned land or farm near a river, I would, no doubt, use such technology to produce energy to run my house to fulfil my daily needs.

    1. It’s good to know about the water wheel. I have seen an air wheel in some photos from UK and I guess they also used to harness the wind energy similarly. Energy from natural sources like river, wind and sun could easily be harnessed to generate electricity and the technology for doing so, is available today. In the case of river, water turbines could be utilized by individuals than expecting the Govt. to use them on a large scale. The latter won’t happen.

      Destination Infinity

  3. I would say, “Do anything but please give us electricity.” We have about 12 hours of unscheduled power-cuts and I go crazy. Every one hour in the night, there is no power and the day is completely sour. I think this period of my life is generating the greatest number of expletives . . . in fact it will be more than the entire sum of expletives I will spew in my life.

    Joy always,
    Susan

    1. I am reading a lot about the power situation in ROTN and it is really a big concern. The state was supposed to bring a solar policy and nothing has come out till now. The power cut situation is affecting many industries down South. I hope they will start doing something sooner.

      Destination Infinity

  4. True!! I thought the very same thing when i just recently stood in front of Niagara Falls on the Canada side. Such sheer power and constantly rushing down at an amazing rate…seemed almost crazy that we wouldn’t utilize what we have occuring naturally.

    Great post. Thankyou!

    1. That is huge. It seems they were making energy using the Niagra falls earlier. Not sure why they stopped it. Smaller falls could also be used for generating energy. Wonder why the authorities/industry-personnel don’t think about it?

      Destination Infinity

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