Nelson Bustamante: Understanding Reservoir: Types And Functions

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Reservoirs are a vital part of our hydrological cycle and infrastructure. They play an important role in managing water resources, generating renewable electricity, and providing essential services for people, animals, and the environment. But what is a reservoir? What are its purpose and types? To understand reservoirs more fully, it is essential first to define them and then discuss the types and functions of reservoirs.

Reservoirs are man-made storage systems that capture and store water for future use. They are usually constructed by damming a river to form an artificial lake and are designed to control water flow from a source to a destination. The purpose of reservoirs is to provide a reliable water source for drinking, irrigation, hydropower, and other uses.

Reservoirs are vital for managing water resources and preventing flooding. By regulating water flow from the source, reservoirs can help prevent flooding in downstream areas. They can also store excess water during periods of heavy rain and drought, thus providing a reliable water source for drinking, agriculture, and other uses.


Reservoirs come in many different shapes and sizes and can serve different purposes. Some reservoirs are designed to store large volumes of water for long periods, while others are designed to store smaller amounts of water for short periods. Let’s look at the various types of reservoirs and their functions.

Types of Reservoirs

The type of reservoir chosen for a certain purpose depends on multiple factors, including available land area, reservoir depth, and the water’s intended use. Reservoirs may be natural or artificial and come in many shapes and sizes.

Surface Storage Reservoirs:

Surface storage reservoirs are the most common type of reservoir. These reservoirs are created by constructing a dam or weir on a natural water course, allowing the water to be contained in a large pool. Once the pool is created, water can be stored in it for many purposes, including flood control, hydroelectric power generation, irrigation, and drinking and domestic water supply.

Subsurface Storage Reservoirs:

Subsurface storage reservoirs are reservoirs constructed below the ground surface. These reservoirs are commonly used to store industrial wastewater and stormwater runoff. The water is stored in an impermeable underground aquifer and is managed through pumps and injection wells.

Groundwater Basins:

Groundwater basins are reservoirs of permeable rocks like gravel, sand, and clay. These basins are used to store groundwater for drinking and domestic use and replenish groundwater during drought. Groundwater basins are also used for agricultural irrigation.

Injection/Disposal Reservoirs:

Injection/disposal reservoirs are reservoirs used to store wastewater from industrial and manufacturing processes. The water is stored in an underground aquifer and may be used for groundwater recharge. The water may be disposed of through injection wells or other surface disposal methods.

Artificial Reservoirs:

Artificial reservoirs are man-made reservoirs created using earth and rock dams. These reservoirs are used for various purposes, including flood control, water supply, and hydroelectric power generation. Artificial reservoirs are typically larger than natural reservoirs and may be created in any location where water needs to be stored.

The various types of reservoirs provide various solutions for different water management needs. Each reservoir type has benefits and drawbacks, from surface storage reservoirs to groundwater basins. Understanding reservoirs’ different types and functions is essential to manage and conserve water resources effectively.

Functions of Reservoirs

Reservoirs are essential to many different functions within society. They provide us with vital sources of energy and water, help to reduce the risk of flooding, and can also be used to maintain the water quality of rivers and other bodies of water.

Controlling floods is an incredibly important function of reservoirs. By storing excess rainwater during periods of heavy rainfall, reservoirs can reduce the risk of flooding in downstream areas. This is especially beneficial in urban areas, where infrastructure and buildings are particularly vulnerable to flooding. In addition, reservoirs can also be used to regulate water flow in a river. This helps to reduce the risk of flooding over a longer period.

Generating hydroelectricity is another important function of reservoirs. A dam is usually constructed to control water levels when a reservoir is created. Hydroelectric power plants can generate energy from the river’s flow by managing the release of water from the reservoir. This is an efficient and renewable source of energy and is becoming increasingly popular.

Reservoirs are also used for navigation purposes. Inland waterways, such as lakes and rivers, are essential for transporting goods and services. Navigable waterways can be maintained throughout the year by controlling the water levels in a reservoir. Reservoirs can also maintain a consistent level of water in canals and other navigation channels, helping to move goods across the country.

Supplying irrigation is another key function of reservoirs. Irrigation provides water to crops and plants to promote growth. Reservoirs store excess water during times of high flow, which can then be released during periods of low flow. This helps maintain adequate water levels in rivers and streams, which is necessary for successful irrigation.

Finally, reservoirs are often used to purify water. As the water is stored in the reservoir, it can be treated to remove contaminants and other pollutants. This helps to ensure the water is safe to drink and use for other purposes.

Reservoir Management

Reservoir management is critical to building and maintaining reservoirs to maximize their benefits. It involves both short-term and long-term strategies to ensure the optimal utilization of the reservoir. This includes planning for water supply and hydroelectricity generation and protecting the reservoir from environmental degradation and other risks.

The primary goal of reservoir management is to ensure sustainable use of the reservoir in the long term. This is done by monitoring water levels, water quality, sedimentation, and other factors that can affect the functioning of the reservoir. Additionally, it involves constructing and maintaining flood protection structures and other infrastructure that can prevent damage to the reservoir.

To maximize the benefits of the reservoir, it is important to assess the demand and supply of water. This requires a careful analysis of the current and future water demand and the available water sources. This analysis aims to ensure that the reservoir operates at peak efficiency and that the water supply is reliable.

Key to successful reservoir management is implementing strategies to mitigate environmental degradation. This includes managing sedimentation, preventing the introduction of pollutants, and protecting the reservoir from overuse. Additionally, it is important to assess the effect of reservoir operations on downstream water users and ecosystems.

It is also important to engage in public outreach and education to raise awareness of the benefits of the reservoir. This can help to reduce conflict between reservoir users and other stakeholders. Additionally, it can help ensure that the reservoir is managed in a way that benefits all stakeholders.

In addition to the strategies above, reservoir management also requires the implementation of safeguards and protocols to ensure the safety and security of the reservoir. This includes the installation of warning systems, the implementation of emergency response plans, and the establishment of contingency plans for worst-case scenarios.

Reservoir management is an important part of building and maintaining reservoirs. It is essential to ensure the reservoir is properly managed to maximize its benefits and minimize its risks. By implementing sound strategies and safeguards, reservoir management can ensure the reservoir is utilized optimally and sustainably.

Challenges of Reservoirs

Despite the countless benefits of reservoirs, their construction and operation come with several challenges that should be considered.

Environmental Impacts of Reservoirs

The construction of a reservoir often involves flooding a large area to create a large body of water. This can lead to the degradation of aquatic and terrestrial environments, loss of biodiversity, and disruption of natural water flows. Reservoirs can also cause downstream water pollution since the water in the reservoir is often stagnant with a low oxygen level. The construction of dams can also lead to increased sedimentation downstream.

Social Impacts of Reservoirs

The construction of reservoirs often leads to the displacement of many people from their homes since the area that will be flooded must be cleared. This can lead to several social problems, such as loss of livelihood, poverty, and disruption of communities.

Economic Impacts of Reservoirs

The construction of reservoirs is a costly undertaking that requires significant financial investment. Furthermore, maintaining a reservoir and its associated facilities can be costly due to the need for regular monitoring and repairs. There is also the potential for economic losses due to water leakage or inadequate water management.

In conclusion, the construction and operation of reservoirs can lead to several challenges that must be considered. Environmental, social, and economic impacts can result from the construction of reservoirs, and careful planning and monitoring must ensure that any negative impacts are minimized. Furthermore, reservoir management strategies must be developed to ensure that the benefits of reservoirs are maximized.

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