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You are here: Home / Publications / Human Interventions in the Hydrological Cycle / 3. summary of the main human interventions in the hydrological cycle

3. summary of the main human interventions in the hydrological cycle

3. Summary of the Main Human Interventions in the Hydrological Cycle

This section gives a summary of the main human interventions identified from the information collected in this study. The interventions have been divided into three main categories:

  1. River, lake and estuary regulation;

  2. Water abstraction; and,

  3. Activities in the catchment’

Each human interventions have been classified into one these categories: some interventions inevitably occur in more than one category but the classification was considered to be appropriate for this investigation and for ease of description. Section 4 gives an overview of each of the 3 categories. More detailed descriptions and examples of the main categories and sub-classes are given in Appendix B.

Tables 3.1 to 3.3 give a summary of the most significant interventions in the hydrological cycle identified by the contributing partners according to biogeographic region.

It appears from the information obtained that the most common and significant human interventions in the hydrological cycle are:

  1. Groundwater abstraction for public water supply and for irrigation purposes (in the Atlantic, Continental and Mediterranean regions).

  2. Damming for generating hydroelectricity (in the Alpine, Continental and Mediterranean regions and in Norway).

  3. Land sealing arising from urbanisation, and land drainage for the purposes of cultivation, occur in each biogeographic region and seem to be as significant as the other interventions described above.

  4. Damming for public water supply and irrigation, river channelisation for flood control, drainage purposes and high intensity agriculture obviously exert a major impact on the hydrological cycle.

Examined more closely, and considering that the selection of the interventions is restricted to a relatively small number of countries, it can be seen that a number of human interventions occur in the same regions.

  1. Land sealing by urbanisation and land drainage for cultivation occur in all regions but damming for public water supply and for irrigation seem to be typical interventions in the Atlantic and Mediterranean regions.

  2. In the Atlantic and the Continental regions the following interventions are common:

  • Damming for flood control and fish farming;

  • Dredging of river channels to drain land;

  • Surface water abstraction for fish farming;

  • Wet cuts;

  • River channelisation for drainage and agriculture.

  1. Groundwater abstraction for public water supply and irrigation purposes are significant interventions mainly in the Atlantic, Continental and Mediterranean regions.

  2. Dredging of river channels for mining river bed gravel and surface water abstractions for hydropower and for inter-basin water transfers seem to be typical only for the Alpine region and Norway.

Table 3.1 Major human interventions in the hydrological cycle regarding to category A "River, lake and estuary regulation".

Intervention

Reason

Region/Country

   

Alp.

Atl.

Cont.

Med.

N

FI

Damming, building and management of river reservoirs Public water supply of surrounding areas
of far regions

lack of water quantity
lack of water quality

 

Fsw


Fnw

 

P

F, P
P

   
  Irrigation of surrounding areas
of far regions

lack of water quantity

 

Fsw

 

P

F, P

   
  Hydropower Intermittent power plant
Runoff-river power plant
Pumped-storage plant
Diversion power plant

A, F
A
A
A, F

 

F
A, F

A

P
P
P

N
N
N
N

 
  Flood control    

Fnw

F

     
  Low flow enhancement Providing a reliable downstream water supply    


F

     
  Fish farming    

DK

DK

     
River channelisation Flood control  

A, F

 

A

 

N

 
  Drainage of surrounding land    


DK


DK

 


N

 
  Navigation    

Fn

       
Building of weirs Improving fish habitats, fishing possibilities          


N

 
Dredging of river channels Drainage of surrounding land    


DK


DK

     
  Mining of river bed gravel  


F

     


N

 
Lake regulation Lake shore modification
Natural lakes


A, F

         
  Hydropower Natural lakes        

N

 
  Restoration and care            

FI

Estuary regulation Flood control    

Fnw

       
Lagoon regulation          

F

   

Alp. Alpine region
A Austria
Atl. Atlantic region
DK Denmark
Cont. Continental region
F France
Med. Mediterranean region
N Norway
P Portugal
FI Finland

Part of the Atlantic region in France:
Fn Northern part
Fnw North-western part
Fsw South-western part

Table 3.2 Major human interventions in the hydrological cycle regarding to category B "Water abstraction".

Intervention

Reason

Region/Country

   

Alp.

Atl.

Cont.

Med.

N

Surface water abstraction Public water supply of far regions

lack of water quantity

     

F

 
  Industrial water supply      


F

   
  Irrigation of surrounding areas
of far regions

lack of water quantity

 

Fnw,Fsw

Fnw,Fsw

     
  Fish farming    

DK

DK

   
  Hydropower Diversion power plant
Storage power plant

A

A

     

N

N

  Inter-basin transfer  

F

     

N

Groundwater abstraction Public water supply of surrounding areas
of far regions

lack of water quantity
lack of water quality

 

DK, Fn

Fn

Fn

DK

F

DK

P

P

P

 
  Irrigation of surrounding areas
of far regions

lack of water quantity

 

DK
Fsw, Fn

A
DK

P

P

 

Alp. Alpine region
A Austria
Atl. Atlantic region
DK Denmark
Cont. Continental region 
Med. Mediterranean region
N Norway
P Portugal

Part of the Atlantic region in France:
Fn Northern part
F France
Fnw North-western part
Fsw South-western part

Table 3.3 Major human interventions in the hydrological cycle regarding to category C "Activities in the catchment".

Intervention

Reason

Region/Country

   

Alp.

Atl.

Cont.

Med.

N/FI

Land drainage Cultivation  

A

Fnw

DK

F

N

  Infrastructure for traffic        

F

 
Land sealing Urbanisation  

A

Fnw

F

F

N

  Infrastructure for traffic      

F

F

 
  Tourism  

A

       
Wet cuts      

Fnw

F

   
Agricultural activities Intensification of agriculture Cultivation of crops with high water requirements
Long-term changes of grassland to arable land
Drainage of wetlands
Water regulation in cultivation areas
 

Fn, Fsw


A
A
A

 



FI

Forestry Deforestation Cultivation
Urbanisation
Tourist reasons
Fire
     

P
P
P
P

 
  Afforestation          

N, FI

Alp. Alpine region
A Austria
Atl. Atlantic region
DK Denmark
Cont. Continental region 
Med. Mediterranean region
N Norway
P Portugal

F France
FI Finland

Part of the Atlantic region in France:
Fn Northern part
Fnw North-western part
Fsw South-western part

Because different human interventions in the hydrological cycle are made for similar reasons, the results of the contributions have been regrouped. The following table shows the intended purpose of an intervention in the hydrological cycle in the contributing countries.

Table 3.4 Intended reasons of human interventions in the hydrological cycle

Reason

Region/Country

Intervention

 

Alp.

Atl.

Cont.

Med.

N

 
Public water supply of surrounding areas
of far regions

lack of water quantity
lack of water quality

 

Fsw

Fnw

 

P

F, P
P

  Damming, building and management of river reservoirs
  of far regions

lack of water quantity

     

 

F

  Surface water abstraction
  of surrounding areas
of far regions

lack of water quantity
lack of water quality

 

DK, Fn

Fn
Fn

DK


F
DK

P

P
P

  Groundwater abstraction
Irrigation of surrounding areas
of far regions

lack of water quantity

 

Fsw

 

P


F, P

  Damming, building and management of river reservoirs
  of surrounding areas
of far regions

lack of water quantity

 

Fsw,Fnw

Fsw,Fnw

      Surface water abstraction
  of surrounding areas
of far regions

lack of water quantity

 

DK, Fsw, Fn

A, DK

P

P

  Groundwater abstraction
Hydropower Intermittent power plant
Runoff-river power plant
Pumped-storage plant
Diversion power plant

A, F
A
A
A, F

 

F

A, F
A

P
P
P

N
N
N
N

Damming, building and management of river reservoirs
  Natural lakes        

N

Lake regulation
  Diversion power station
Storage power plant

A
A

     

N
N

Surface water abstraction
Flood control    


Fnw


F

    Damming, building and management of river reservoirs
   

A, F

 

A

 

N

River channelisation
     

Fnw

      Estuary regulation
         

F

  Lagoon regulation
Low flow enhancement To provide a reliable downstream water supply    


F

    Damming, building and management of river reservoirs

Table 3.4 continued

Reason

Region/Country

Intervention

 

Alp.

Atl.

Cont.

Med.

N

 
Fish farming and fishing    


DK


DK

    Damming, building and management of river reservoirs
           

N

Building of weirs
     

DK

DK

    Surface water abstraction
Drainage of surrounding land    

DK

DK

    Dredging of river channels
     

DK

DK

 

N

River channelisation
Mining of river bed gravel  

F

     

N

Dredging of river channels
     

Fnw

F

    Wet cuts
Infrastructure for        

F

  Land drainage
traffic      

F

F

  Land sealing
Cultivation  

A

Fnw

DK

F

N

Land drainage
Urbanisation  

A

Fnw

F

F

N

Land sealing
Tourism  

A

        Land sealing
Navigation    

Fn

      River channelisation
Lake shore modification Natural lakes

A, F

        Lake regulation
Industrial water supply      

F

    Surface water abstraction
Inter-basin transfer  

F

     

N

Surface water abstraction
Intensification of agriculture Cultivation of crops with high water requirements
Long-term changes of grassland to arable land
Drainage of wetlands
Water regulation in cultivation areas
 


Fn, Fsw


A
A
A

    Agricultural activities
Deforestation Cultivation
Urbanisation
Tourist reasons
Fire
     

P
P
P
P

  Forestry
Afforestation          

N

Forestry

Alp. Alpine region
A Austria
Atl. Atlantic region
DK Denmark
Cont. Continental region 
F France

Med. Mediterranean region
N Norway
P Portugal

Part of the Atlantic region in France:
Fn Northern part
Fnw North-western part
Fsw South-western part

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