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Making dams safer for fish around the world
Date:4/14/2014

rld, and it's a clean, renewable source of energy to boot.

In Brazil, several dozen dams are planned along the Amazon, Madeira and Xingu rivers an area that teems with more than 5,000 species of fish, and where some of the largest hydropower projects in the world are being built. In southeastern Australia, hydropower devices are planned in the area drained by the Murray-Darling river system. And in Southeast Asia, hundreds of dams and smaller hydro structures are planned in the Lower Mekong River Basin.

The authors say the findings from a collaboration that spans four continents improve our understanding of hydropower and will benefit fish around the globe. New results about species in the Mekong or Amazon regions, for instance, can inform fish-friendly practices in those regions of the United States where barotrauma has not been extensively studied.

To 'Everest' and back in an instant

Dams vary considerably in the challenges they pose to migrating fish, and the challenges are magnified when a fish must pass through more than one dam or hydro structure. At some, mortality is quite high, while at others, such as along the Columbia River, most fish are able to pass over or through a single dam safely, thanks to extensive measures to keep fish safe. Some fish spill harmlessly over the top, while others pass through pipes or other structures designed to route fish around the dam or steer them clear of the energy-producing turbines.

Still, at most dams, the tremendous turbulence of the water can hurt or disorient fish, and the blades of a turbine can strike them. The new study focuses on a third problem, barotrauma damage that happens at some dams when a fish experiences a large change in pressure.

Depending on its specific path, a fish traveling through a dam can experience an enormous drop in pressure, similar to the change from sea level to the top of Mt. Everest, in an instant. Just as fast, as the waters
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Contact: Tom Rickey
tom.rickey@pnnl.gov
509-375-3732
DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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