In 1991, in order to protect the surrounding towns from flooding, Morocco began work on the Al Wahda Dam. Since its construction, the dam has reduced flooding by 90% in areas near the Ourgha and Sebou Rivers, and has provided the area with a green electricity source. By 2020 Morocco hopes to have 42% of their energy generated from green sources.
Though hydropower is a good source of renewable energy, dams are complicated structures that take a lot of energy themselves to maintain. Sediment can build up on the upstream side of dams, which puts pressure on the Earth’s crust and raises the water levels. Over time, as sediment builds up, the weight can cause the Earth below to collapse under the pressure which can lead to earthquakes. Natural and human-induced erosion have caused the dam to lose approximately 60 million m3 of capacity each year. Is it worth all the trouble?
This is part of a project for my EARTH111 class, Water: Science & Society. Since this assignment is due tonight at 11PM (eek!), stay tuned for some more real-life water crises, which will ultimately be documented and available for free download in the form of a Google Earth file that geolocates all of these issues.