Regulated rivers in the United Kingdom

Petts, Geoffrey E. (1988) Regulated rivers in the United Kingdom. Regulated Rivers: Research & Management, 2 (3). pp. 201-220. ISSN 0886-9375

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This paper identifies the principal regulated rivers in Britain and summarizes their physical and ecological characteristics. Virtually all major rivers in the United Kingdom are shown to be regulated directly or indirectly by mainstream impoundments, interbasin transfers, pumped storage reservoirs, or groundwater abstractions. Flow records for sixty per cent of all gauging stations are significantly affected by flow manipulations. Three phases in the development of river regulation are identified: firstly, the development of direct supply and compensation reservoirs from 1840; secondly, the development of large dams and large-scale interbasin water transfers from 1890; and thirdly, the modern era of multipurpose river regulation that began in 1965. Any assessment of the environmental effects of river regulation must consider the spatial variation of natural river systems throughout the U.K., climatic changes, and the cumulative effect of river regulation and other impacts over an historic timescale. Today, the rivers of the U.K. are shown to have an underlying character that reflects the marked climatic, geologic, and topographic differences between the upland north and west, and lowland south and east; differences in part that relate to their different histories during the Pleistocene. However, many rivers show the effects of human impacts that began about 5000 years ago. Most rivers have experienced changes since about 1930 consequent upon afforestaton, land drainage, and channelization. These, together with short-term climatic changes, make defining ecological impacts of river regulation problematic. Pollution has had the most dramatic effects. Nevertheless, it is suggested that new concepts of environmentally sound river regulation could lead to the restoration and even enhancement of rivers in the United Kingdom.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: University of Westminster > Science and Technology > Life Sciences, School of (No longer in use)
Depositing User: Miss Nina Watts
Date Deposited: 11 Feb 2009 10:53
Last Modified: 22 Dec 2009 10:27

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