Sediment Mismanagement Puts Reservoirs and Ecosystems at Risk

Dams store water flowing down rivers and streams in reservoirs, providing protection from floods. Dams also serve as sources of electrical power, and they provide water for domestic and irrigation uses and flat-water recreation. By design and default, most dams in the United States also store sediment, indefinitely.

Sediment accumulation behind U.S. dams has drastically reduced the total storage capacity of reservoirs. Sedimentation is estimated to have reduced the absolute water storage capacity of U.S. reservoirs by 10%–35%. Consequently, on a per capita basis, the water storage capacity of U.S. reservoirs today is about what it was in the 1940s–1950s, despite there being more dams [Randle et al., 2019]. This comes as no…

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