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The Importance of River Restoration Essay

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Updated: Sep 17th, 2022


River restoration is often carried out by conservationists in a bid to reinstate a water course back to its initial state. Rivers are often polluted by human activities along and near the water bodies. Environmentalists tasked with reinstating rivers often cite increased human actions along the streams as the fundamental course of their dilapidation. Therefore, the perception of community living near polluted rivers often influences the success or failure of restoration efforts. One key lesson from the article is understanding the compromised rivers, human and natural activities that pollute the streams and the restoration process. Additionally, it is difficult to effectively restore a stream that has suffered from several years of pollution.

Article Discussion

River restoration is an activity that is conducted by the conservations in an attempt to reinstate a stream back to its original state. However, it only deals with the river’s physical appearance instead of the composition and the natural habitats. Many organizations and government entities across the world have developed measures to reclaim rivers in which their original quality is affected. Nonetheless, restoration is often unrealistic since the results may not correspond with the expected outcomes. Although rehabilitation is an essential aspect of conservation, river degradation occurs due to human activities and natural phenomena.


The researchers used historical analysis of land use changes in Colorado Front Range to conduct their study. The changes were mainly caused by human activities and some natural calamities. Human activities along river banks cause the degradation of streams. Although people may claim that they are exploiting the resource “sustainably,” the term is relative since what may seem to be a proper utilization of the river can be wastage for another person. Besides, the use of some materials to extract natural resources can also cause damage to the source. For instance, mining exposes streams to lose soil; thus, making it easy for the running water to carry the debris to the river. Additionally, the use of mercury to mine gold also pollutes the water. Mercury is a heavy metal that can cause death or interfere with the reproductive circle if consumed with aquatic life. Therefore, the actions of people contribute to the degradation of a river.

Events of previous natural calamities were also studied to determine the extent to which they interfere with the original quality of the stream. Even though the catastrophes are not frequent, their effects can be both short and long term. For instance, flooding, landslides, and wildfires introduce sediments into the river. The upstream waters carry the loose soil into the water, thus causing siltation. As a result, the composition of water is changed, which can result in the river’s pollution.


The research concluded that river restoration is mainly conducted based on the perception of people. When the locals, national government, and international organizations develop a view that a river does not meet the required standards, they may work individually or collectively to reinstate the stream back to its original state. However, the habitats that depend on the river are not always reinstated. Wohl (2005) illustrates that attempts to restore the river only improves visibility. The habitats are never recovered because the original intention of rehabilitating the river is based on the physical state rather than the surrounding environment and chemical composition. Therefore, it is the people who decide when to reinstate a river and in which capacity.

It also demonstrated that it is difficult to bring back a river when most of its systems have adversely been affected by the land-use changes for several years. Polluted rivers can undergo restoration when the pollutants are still in the initial stages of affecting the rivers. In other words, highly polluted rivers that have suffered for a long time can never be restored to their initial state. Human activities change the original state by either depositing toxic chemicals into the source or altering water composition. As a result, rivers that have suffered several years of the population have lost their originality. Thus, they can never be reinstated, although several attempts have been made to restore them.

Lessons Learnt from the Article

One of the lessons learned from the article is that it is difficult to restore an ecosystem that has suffered several years of pollution. Pollutants become part and parcel of the river’s composition, thus making it difficult for the environmentalists to determine the original make-up and the pollution percentage. Any attempts to restore such rivers may lead to undesired results or further alteration of the river. The origin of the pollution may not be known since it may have started long ago from several unknown points.

Secondly, human activities and natural calamities cause river dilapidation in several ways. However, people events are the leading causes of stream degradation. Society clears the watercourse environment, which makes the soil easily carried away with the flowing water. Besides, some of the chemicals used to extract natural resources release toxic material to the environment, thus adversely affecting the habitat. Human activities, however, can be controlled if their effects are realized at an early stage. Nevertheless, natural calamities such as floods and wildfires can affect a river’s quality by introducing debris and increasing siltation. Although the calamities are beyond control, the rivers can quickly regain their natural state from the catastrophes.


Succinctly, river restoration is done with constraints rather than having an open mind. In most cases, the conservationists only focus on a specified outcome, but there are numerous causes of river degradation that should all be considered. For instance, ecologists concentrate on human activities such as infrastructure and mining. However, there are also natural causes that can affect the original habitat of a river. Nonetheless, the river can reclaim itself from the natural catastrophes within a short period of time. Therefore, restoration should be conducted without a specific goal that may limit people from achieving the result.


Wohl, E. (2005). Ecology and Society, 10(2). Web.

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