In order to fulfill the needs of over nine million citizens, Mexico City receives 34,430 liters of drinking water per second. With such a large population, it is important that the country creates an effective water infrastructure to keep up with the rising demand. Around the world, many countries are building a variety of infrastructures to store water, create energy, and prevent the overflow of water into cities.

photo credit: newamericamedia

Three Gorge Dam in China

China is the most populous country in the world and it requires a constant supply of energy and water. For this, China constructed the Three Gorges Dam, one of its most marvelous structures, on the Yangtze River in Hubei province. This dam is the largest energy station in terms of installed capacity, and the largest operating hydroelectric plant in terms of annual energy generation in the world. This enormous dam is approximately two kilometers wide, 185 meters high and houses a water reservoir of about 31,000 square miles. Additionally, China is home to some of the largest hydroelectric plants in the world and with a goal of generating 15% of its power from renewable resources by 2020, even more powerful constructions are beginning to be developed. The Three Gorges dam produces 18.2 GW of electric power, making it a sustainable source of renewable energy for China. That is 24 times greater than the capacity of Mexico’s largest hydroelectric plant, the Yesca, and 20 times greater than the Hoover Dam in the US. Apart from generating power for hundreds of people, it keeps the surrounding cities safe from floods and gives jobs to hundreds of locals.

Photo Credits: hdrincHoover Dam in U.S.A

Although the dam is breathtaking and its presence generates many positive results, it has created a great deal of controversy. As a result of its size, about 1.5 million people had to be relocated and more than a hundred towns were ravaged to allow for its construction. Not only were millions of people forced to leave their homes, but thousands of archaeological sites were also destroyed. Some environmentalists are also questioning the dam’s impact on the environment and wildlife. Erosion contaminates rivers, thousands of acres of land were submerged, and it has threatened the lives of many of the river’s species. The construction of large dams can also hurt emerging economies. An Oxford University report investigated 245 of the largest dams built since the year 1934, and the results were disheartening. Most of these projects had the largest budget overruns across all infrastructure projects, with over 90% of overrun, creating inflation and debt in the countries.

Photo Credit: BoletinMexicoYesca Dam in Mexico

Despite the somewhat unfavorable effects of creating these immense structures, countries can still take advantage of their water resources and create more sources of renewable energy by creating smaller, more flexible plants. Take Norway for example, which produces 99% of its electricity using hydroelectric power, with plants that have installed capacities of 100MW or less. There is no question that water infrastructure is an important contributor to the sustainability of a country, and that the high demands will push countries to innovate their designs, construction strategies and future management.


With information from: Asia-Pacific Economics Blog, BBC and The Guardian  

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