Friday, August 10, 2012

Just How Important is the River?

Some people look to the river for their favorite fishing spot. Some people like to swim or tube in the river. Other people use the river for canoeing. I've even seen people kayaking in a river! But this summer, I discovered a new appreciation for a river and what it can do for a community. Other than the recreational activities already mentioned, I used a river to charge a phone, to watch the Olympics, and even to read a book. I used the river for electricity. 

Let me explain. In Malawi, Africa--the place where I spent my summer--the entire country runs off of hydro-electric power! No coal, no gas, no wind, just the river. There are several reasons why this is cool. One, it's cool because there is no waste created in the process of creating electricity for the 14 million people of Malawi. Two, it's cool because Malawi doesn't have to rely on other countries for resources for electricity. Three, it's cool because there are no mines to be dug or nuclear stacks to build. Four, it's cool because once the hydro-plant is built, there are no resources to needed to fuel the plant, the water just flows. 

This is basically how it works: Water is diverted by a pipe from a swift moving river and is funneled to the plant where the water churns turbines quickly enough to create electricity which is then sent through electric lines across the nation. The water, once pushed through the turbine is then released downstream via an outlet pipe. There are, however, a few drawbacks, at least in Malawi. The most significant is that the hydro-electric plants do not create enough electricity for the entire nation all at once. As a result, we frequently experienced black outs. But, blackouts and all, I am thoroughly impressed with the power that the river holds, and hope that we can continue to see the value of our rivers.

A picture of me in Lake Malawi

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