Why you should give a damn about America’s dams
This summer’s unprecedented floods across the U.S. highlight how a massive piece of infrastructure — the nation’s 90,000-plus dams — can play the role of hero or villain in these climate-enhanced calamities. In the arid western states, drought rather than floods often causes dams to make the news. At the same time, many American dams and their reservoirs have degraded water quality, altered water temperature and blocked fish migration. Significantly reduced fish populations also prevent tribal nations from practicing their fishing and cultural traditions as promised in treaties with the U.S. Critically, some dams have outlived their useful lives and need to be removed, thereby increasing public safety and enhancing the watersheds and floodplains important in managing the increased precipitation driven by climate change.