GCSE Geography: Rivers and Hard Engineering Options

22nd August 2017

GCSE Geography Revision - Made Easy!

Everything you need to know about Rivers and Hard Engineering Options!

Just as with a coastline, rivers are prone to flooding in bad weather conditions. Rivers flood when rainfall is too heavy for the river's capacity to be able to withstand. The water level can either simply rise above the height of the river bank, or can create large amounts of pressure on the banks causing them to collapse or give way, flooding the surrounding area, called a flood plain.


There are two groups of methods for controlling floods around a river - hard and soft engineering options. Hard options often see man-made, constructed/manufactured pieces of equipment used to stop or lessen the damage caused by flooding. Soft options often see the use of strategy involving the natural scenery around a river.


Examples of Hard Engineering Options for flood management along a river:


  • Dams - Often very large man-made constructions, these structures can be built along the course of a river in order to control the rate of a river flow, releasing water from the river on one side of the dam into the other side. This usually means that there is a large water reservoir on one side of the dam, which allows the river to compensate for heavy periods of rainfall and in turn prevents flooding. This option can be favoured by governments becuase the release of water from one side of the dam into the other can be used to generate hydro-electric power. However, dams are hugely expensive to build, and can lead to large losses of agricultural land and settlements to make space for the huge reservoir.


  • River Engineering - This option involves the construction of wider and deeper river beds, by engineers removing the land either side of the bank and underneath the river itself. This increases the river's water capacity, meaning a much higher volume of rain must fall to create a flooding situation. However this can lead to more flooding further downstream, where the higher volume of water will flow faster in an unengineered part of the river.


Government bodies usually prefer hard engineering options because they can generate income and profits. Environmentalist groups usually prefer the option of soft engineering because it promotes less damage to environments and less disruption of settlements.


Any flood management engineering option must be economically, environmentally and socially sustainable, as this will make sure that future generations are not impacted by the decisions made to stop flooding today.


Make sure to listen to our music video on Hard Engineering Options for River Flood Management, remember the lyrics, and then try your hand at our test!


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