Hydro-Electricity Impacts within New Zealand

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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...
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