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Human Control Of Rivers

For centuries, rivers have been very important to human society. Aside from soil, no other feature on Earth is as closely bound to the advancement of human civilization. Trying to control river flow has been a key part of civil engineering. This is especially true because of the need to avoid natural flooding and the desire to take advantage of the benefits that flood plains offer agriculture. Furthermore, managing rivers can also satisfy human needs to store water for times of drought. Thus, civil engineers have a number of goals. They try to conserve water flow for release at times when human need is greatest. They try to keep water quality above acceptable levels. And they try to confine flood flows to designated channels or to planned flood storage areas.

While the techniques of river management are fairly well understood, true river management is not commonly put into practice because of the expense and the size of the projects involved. In fact, none of the major rivers in the world is controlled or even managed in a way that modern engineering and biological techniques would allow. So far, only medium-sized streams have been successfully managed. For example, the San Joaquin in California has been completely developed to take advantage of the irrigation opportunities that the stream offers.



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Czaya, Eberhard. Rivers of the World. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1981.

Parker, Sybil P., and Robert A. Corbitt, eds. McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Environmental Science and Engineering. 3rd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1992.

Parker, Sybil P., ed. McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Oceans, and Atmospheric Sciences. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1980.


Bandler, Hans. "River Symposium 2002: The Scarcity Of Water. " Water International 27, no. 3 (2002): 452.

Brismar, Anna. "River Systems As Providers Of Goods And Services: A Basis For Communication." Environmental Management 29, no. 5 (2002): 598-609.

Kathryn D. Snavely


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—A significant, continuously flowing body of water formed by the convergence of a number of rills.

Catchment area

—The area from which a particular section of a river obtains its water; also known as a drainage area.


—Movement of material caused by the flow of ice, water, or air, and the modification of the surface of the earth (by forming or deepening valleys, for example) produced by such transport.


—The process of water oozing out of the ground.

Hydrologic cycle

—The continuous, interlinked circulation of water among its various compartments in the environment.

Perennial rivers

—Located in more humid climates where rainfall exceeds evaporation rates. Although these rivers may experience seasonal fluctuations in their levels of water, they have constant stream flow throughout the year.

Periodic rivers

—Characterized with predictably intermittent streamflow. Usually appearing in arid climates where evaporation is greater than precipitation, these rivers run dry on occasion, but there are regular intervals of streamflow.


—A small channel of water that forms from surface run-off; a small brook.


—Eroded channels in the ground in which rills of water pass over fine soil.


—The process of water being emitted into the atmosphere through vegetation.


—A stream or other body of water that flows into a larger one.


—The area in which a brook flows.


—The expanse of terrain from which water flows into a wetland, waterbody, or stream.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Revaluation of values: to Sarin Gas - History And Global Production Of SarinRivers - Formation Of Rivers, River Systems, Climactic Influences, Hydrological Cycle, River Floods, Human Control Of Rivers