Hydropower

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Hydropower uses the energy from moving water to power machines or generate electricity. Used for over two thousand years in water mills, today hydropower is more commonly associated with electricity generation.

Basics

Photo of the McNary Dam on the Columbia River on the Oregon-Washington Border

Hydropower uses the energy from moving water to power machines or generate electricity. Used for over two thousand years in water mills, today hydropower is more commonly associated with electricity generation. Hydropower has been used to generate electricity since the late 19th century, and remains the largest source of renewable energy worldwide.
Hydroelectric power plants are usually built inside dams. The reservoir of water that collects behind the dam provides a steady supply of water, which passes through giant turbines to generate electricity. Hydropower is particularly common in places with high rainfall and lots of topography, such as Washington and Oregon, which together produce around 40% of the hydroelectricity generated in the United States.   Read more

Frequently Asked Questions

Latest News

Atlean Lake in British Columbia
(2018-11-05)
October 23, 2018 President Donald Trump signed America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 (S. 3021), which includes the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2018, into law on October 23. S. 3021 outlines updates to the biannual WRDA legislation, drinking water infrastructure development, and...
U.S. Capitol
(2016-02-02)
January 29, 2016 Last week the Senate began debate on the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015, the first major package of energy legislation considered in Congress since 2005. Introduced by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the bill has received bipartisan support, passing out of committee with an...

Geological Surveys Database Publications

2018, United States Geological Survey
The Klamath River Basin stretches from the mountains and inland basins of south-central Oregon and northern California to the Pacific Ocean, spanning multiple climatic regions and encompassing a variety of ecosystems. Water quantity and water quality are important topics in the basin, because water...
2017, United States Geological Survey

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2016, United States Geological Survey
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) South Atlantic Water Science Center (SAWSC) Georgia office, in cooperation with local, State, and other Federal agencies, maintains a long-term hydrologic monitoring network of more than 350 real-time, continuous-record, streamflow-gaging stations (streamgages)....
2016, United States Geological Survey
CaliforniaâEuro TMs vast reservoir system, fed by annual snow-and rainfall, plays an important part in providing water to the StateâEuro TMs human and wildlife population. There are almost 1,300 reservoirs throughout the State, but only approximately 200 of them are considered storage reservoirs...
2014, United States Geological Survey
Safe and reliable supply of water, for irrigation and domestic consumption, is one of Afghanistan's critical needs for the country's growing population. Water is also needed for mining and mineral processing and the associated business and community development, all of which contribute to...
2014, United States Geological Survey
Key Points--The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2009) estimates that excessive sediment is the leading cause of water-quality impairment in water bodies in the United States. The cost of damages attributable to sediment is high, estimated at more than
2014, United States Geological Survey
Long-term streamflow information is critical for use in several water-related areas that are important to humans and wildlife, including water management, computation of flood and drought flows for water infrastructure, and analysis of climate-related trends. Specific uses are many and diverse and...
2013, New Jersey Geological and Water Survey

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2013, United States Geological Survey

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2012, United States Geological Survey
Forecast Mekong is a significant international thrust under the Delta Research and Global Observation Network (DRAGON) of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and was launched in 2009 by the U.S. Department of State and the Foreign Ministers of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam under U.S....