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Management of Tropical River Basins and Reservoirs under Water Stress: Experiences from Northeast Brazil

Marques, Érika Tavares; Gunkel, Günter; Sobral, Maria Carmo

Due to global warming, a reduction in available water will occur in many watersheds and conflicts concerning water use will take place. This situation is already typical in semi-arid areas, where many reservoirs have been constructed for water storage. Increased energy demands and climate change have led to severe and increasing pressure on aquatic systems. Today, the environmental policies of many countries, such as Brazil, give priority to constructing new reservoirs for hydropower use, and an adopted reservoir and river basin management plan must minimize environmental impacts. Moreover, the production of energy plants will promote more requirements for new dam projects. The Itaparica reservoir is 30 years old, located in the São Francisco river in Northeast Brazil, and is the focus of an environmental study. The article focus of investigations is on the environmental and social impacts after the construction of Itaparica reservoir, governance difficulties, and adopted actions to minimize those impacts. Significant environmental impacts are recognizable, such as increased sedimentation in the inflow area, damage to the lakeshore zone by operational water level variation, water losses by evaporation and infiltration, and degradation of inundated vegetation. Furthermore, a trophic upsurge has been registered with severe eutrophication processes, such as the occurrence of cyanobacteria, oxygen deficit in the hypolimnion, and mass development of macrophytes (Egeria densa). With the creation of the dam there was compulsory displacement of the population of the municipalities around Itaparica reservoir with consequent difficulties of adaptation in the new spaces. Furthermore, there was de-structuring of social relation networks, loss of arable land and improvements, and small and insufficient indemnities for land. In this context, concepts for an advanced reservoir management under consideration of water scarcity are presented and discussed. This study aims to contribute to sustainable reservoir management
Published in: Environments, 10.3390/environments6060062, MDPI