How are river channel features modified by human activities?

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Most waterways and environmental areas are impacted in some way by human activities. In general, you can reduce human interaction with waterways and environmental areas to two types—intentional and unintentional. Some of the actions by humans are intentional and designed while some are simply a result of other human actions.

For instance—development tends to take place on or near rivers due to the transportation ability they offer. In this way, human actions decrease the available area for estuaries and ecosystems. In terms of unintentional impacts—pollution and dumping waste dramatically impact river channels. These actions are not directly intended to impact the river channel, and in some cases may not even be directly at a river, but they will harm the wildlife there and pollute the water which changes the flora and fauna and impacts the river.

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A variable in this question is river type; however, there are certain human activities that could change just about any river feature. One common human modification to river channels is a dam. Even if the goal is not to create a lake, dams can cause rapid changes to flow depth. The Colorado River is loaded with these kinds of dams to help control water for farming irrigation. The Parker dam and several dams south of it are good examples. The constantly changing water depth and amount can cause sediments to move around much more quickly than without the dams. This is why sandbars are constantly changing locations. This happens anyway, to an extent, but human actions speed up the process by suddenly releasing a massive flow of water in weekly cycles. Additions of boat launch ramps can eventually affect the course of rivers as well. This is why the Army Corps of Engineers will not allow every homeowner along a river to install their own personal boat ramp.

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