Dams and Reservoirs in the Lower Ebro River and Its Effects on the River Thermal Cycle

  • Jordi Prats
  • Joan ArmengolEmail author
  • Rafael Marcé
  • Martí Sánchez-Juny
  • Josep Dolz
Part of the The Handbook of Environmental Chemistry book series (HEC, volume 13)


River regulation can cause direct and indirect alterations in the river thermal cycle, which in turn may affect biological processes. In the lower Ebro River, two weirs (Ascó and Xerta) and a system of three dams (Mequinensa, Riba-roja, Flix) can be found. The weir of Ascó is used for the derivation of water to be used in the cooling system of a nuclear plant, which is returned later to the river and causing an increase of 3°C in the river water temperature. Instead, the weir of Xerta is used for the derivation of water for irrigation which most probably results in a diminution of the thermal inertia of the flowing water mass. On the other side, the system of reservoirs of Mequinensa, Riba-roja and Flix have a seasonal effect on water temperature. Water exiting the system of reservoirs is cooler than the river water entering them in spring and summer and is warmer in autumn and winter. Also, water temperature variability is reduced both in the daily and annual timescales. The reservoir of Riba-roja, receiving the contribution of two main affluents (Ebro and Segre), presents a most interesting hydrodynamic behaviour, that neither is typical lacustrine nor is that of a river. It has a variable pattern of circulation: in winter and early spring, the water column is mixed; in late spring and most of summer, the Segre River water flows above the Ebro River water; and in the rest of summer and most of autumn, the circulation pattern is inverse to the previous one, with the Ebro River water flowing above the Segre River water.

Graphical Abstract


Dam Reservoir River regulation Water temperature 



The authors thank Antoni Palau and ENDESA for their assistance and the Confederación Hidrográfica del Ebro for the data provided. The authors also thank the Center for Water Research of the University of Western Australia for providing the DYRESM model. Part of the data presented here was the result of projects CGL2004-05503-C02-01/02/HID and GL2008-06377-C02-01/02 funded by the Programa de Recursos Hídricos del Plan Nacional de Investigación y Desarrollo. One of the authors has benefitted from an FPI grant from the Programa de Recursos Hídricos del Plan Nacional de Investigación y Desarrollo and the European Social Fund.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jordi Prats
    • 1
  • Joan Armengol
    • 2
    Email author
  • Rafael Marcé
    • 2
    • 3
  • Martí Sánchez-Juny
    • 1
  • Josep Dolz
    • 1
  1. 1.Fluvial Dynamics and Hydrological Engineering (FLUMEN), Civil Engineering SchoolTechnical University of CataloniaBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Fluvial Dynamics and Hydrological Engineering (FLUMEN)University of BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  3. 3.Catalan Institute for Water Research (ICRA)Scientific and Technological Park of the University of GironaGironaSpain

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