Dam Operation


Michigan Environmental Education Curriculum
River and Stream Ecosystems

The two graphs below show how a dam can regulate flow in a river system. The graph to the left is a hydroelectric dam that is operating at peak discharge. When a dam operates at peak discharge there are large fluctuations of water in the river. The river may increase and decrease quickly, affecting the fish and wildlife community where this is occurring.

The graph to the right is a river which is operating near run-of-the-river conditions. This dam is not drastically increasing or decreasing the amount of water in the river, but is trying to mimic the river's flow. More dams are continuing to operate at natural flow, which may be less harmful to the fish and wildlife communities in and around the river.

Click on the graphs to enlarge.

Peaking Discharge Graph Run-of-River Graph  
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