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Environ Manage. 1997 Jul;21(4):533-51.

PROFILE: Hungry Water: Effects of Dams and Gravel Mining on River Channels

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Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning University of California Berkeley, California 94720, USA approximately kondolf/


/ Rivers transport sediment from eroding uplands to depositional areas near sea level. If the continuity of sediment transport is interrupted by dams or removal of sediment from the channel by gravel mining, the flow may become sediment-starved (hungry water) and prone to erode the channel bed and banks, producing channel incision (downcutting), coarsening of bed material, and loss of spawning gravels for salmon and trout (as smaller gravels are transported without replacement from upstream). Gravel is artificially added to the River Rhine to prevent further incision and to many other rivers in attempts to restore spawning habitat. It is possible to pass incoming sediment through some small reservoirs, thereby maintaining the continuity of sediment transport through the system. Damming and mining have reduced sediment delivery from rivers to many coastal areas, leading to accelerated beach erosion. Sand and gravel are mined for construction aggregate from river channel and floodplains. In-channel mining commonly causes incision, which may propagate up- and downstream of the mine, undermining bridges, inducing channel instability, and lowering alluvial water tables. Floodplain gravel pits have the potential to become wildlife habitat upon reclamation, but may be captured by the active channel and thereby become instream pits. Management of sand and gravel in rivers must be done on a regional basis, restoring the continuity of sediment transport where possible and encouraging alternatives to river-derived aggregate sources.KEY WORDS: Dams; Aquatic habitat; Sediment transport; Erosion; Sedimentation; Gravel mining.


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