Climate Change and Climate Variability

Oral Abstract

The Role of Dams Under Future Climate Conditions

Wednesday, January 4
1:30 PM - 3:00 PM
Location: 2nd & 3rd Meeting Room

Dams have enabled the mitigation of drought impacts through water storage and flood control through the attenuation of peak flows. As a result, dams have enabled agricultural activities to be established in semi-arid areas and for populations to settle near or even on flood plains protected by the dam. However, the construction and existence of dams has often been controversial and the environmental and social consequences of dams having been widely studied over the past few decades. Environmental philosophies are now at odds with dam construction and operation and dams are now increasingly being removed in order to restore natural flows and habitats.

Projections of future water availability indicate that hydrological regimes are likely to shift in many places of the world. The increased occurrence of larger floods, prolonged droughts and increased streamflow variability mean that either larger dams need to be built or alternative water sources will need to be identified to supplement water previously stored in reservoirs and development on flood plains will need to be abandoned. The removal of dams will likely recouple economic growth with seasonal and year-to-year water variability. We provide an assessment on the impact of dams on streamflow and water quality in the United States and assess dam performance by considering hydroclimatic variability as informed by paleoclimate reconstructions and projections of future climate. 

Michelle Ho

Postdoctoral research scientist
Columbia University


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