This web page is dedicated in memory of Herbert C. Force.
This page will be updated whenever new information becomes available or other changes need to be made. So please check back often. Last updated 03/13/2009.
about the falls is doomed to be destroyed."
British Officer E. T. Coke, after visiting Niagara Falls in 1832.
What made Niagara Falls the most famous waterfall in the world was the enormous amount of water rushing over the crest of the cataracts. But the extraordinary spectacle of Niagara Falls has been greatly diminished since October 10, 1950. On that day, a treaty between the United States of America and Canada took effect. The treaty limits the amount of water passing over Niagara Falls. Water is diverted from the river above the falls to hydroelectric power plants in both countries. The diverted water is returned to the river roughly 6 miles down-river of the falls. Since the implementation of the 1950 Niagara River Water Diversion Treaty, everyone has been deprived of seeing Niagara Falls in their full glory.
In an October, 1908 article from The Popular Science Monthly entitled The Spoliation of The Falls of Niagara by Dr. J. W. Spencer, the crestline of the Horseshoe Falls is given as 2,950 feet (899 m) in 1900. Because of water diversion for the production of power, the crest line had shrunk to 2,535 feet (773 m) by 1903. In 1953 a large area of the river bed was built up about 10 feet (3 m) at the Terrapin Point (US) flank of the Horseshoe Falls, creating the large viewing area. This was done to help distribute the flow of water more evenly over the crest of the falls. The Horseshoe Falls lost roughly 335 feet (101 m) of crestline because of this landfill. Today the crestline of the Horseshoe Falls is 2,200 feet (670 m), a loss of 750 feet (229 m) since 1900.
A summer time visitor to Niagara Falls now sees only half of the natural volume of the river passing over the falls. On winter days and every night the volume is reduced even more, to only one quarter of the natural volume. (Please see my web page "Some Information on Niagara Falls" for more information.)
The following is taken word for word from the 1950 Niagara River Water Diversion Treaty:
How does a 75% decrease in the natural volume of water passing over Niagara Falls enhance their scenic beauty? Government officials in the United States and Canada should be working together to enhance the natural appearance of the falls. Instead they are allowing more commercial development in an area that is already overdeveloped, diverting visitors attention from the falls.
In June of 1971, the flow over the American Falls was increased from roughly 8,000 cubic feet of water per second (the current summer time volume during the day) to roughly 15,000 cubic feet of water per second, by diverting water from the Horseshoe Falls. This was done to examine the difference in the appearance of the American Falls. What a difference it was! The green color of the water as it passed over the crest was deepened. The rapids and whitewater above and at the base of the falls increased dramatically. The Bridal Veil Falls seemed to increase in height.
In June of 1969, the flow over the American Falls was stopped by the placement of a dam from the U.S. mainland to Goat Island. This was done to conduct a study of the river bed above the falls and the fallen rock at the base of the falls. The study was performed to determine what measures, if any, should be taken to preserve the beauty of the falls. The data obtained from the dewatering was presented in a report by the American Falls International Board. In 1973, over 200,000 brochures were distributed asking the public for their opinion on possible enhancements to the American Falls. Four options were proposed: (1) the removal of fallen rock from the base of the falls; (2) increasing the flow over the falls; (3) restoring the Maid-of-the-Mist Pool below the falls; or (4) make no change. Of the total responses received (respondents could pick more than one option), 83.2% wanted a change to be made. The complete results are shown in the table below.
Trollhattan Falls is located roughly 200 miles southwest of Stockholm, Sweden, on the Gota River and has a total drop of about 95 feet. The falls are normally dry, the water being used for hydroelectric power. But at least twice a week during the summer months the dam gates are opened, releasing 10,500 cubic feet of water per second. Crowds of tourists gather to see this impressive site. In May and June you can see the falls every Saturday and Sunday, and in July and August, on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2:15 pm. In July there is a three day long waterfall festival.
Cascata delle Marmore (Marmore Falls), located 50 miles north of Rome, Italy, is one of the countrie's greatest waterfalls, with a total fall of 541 feet. In 290 BC the Romans diverted the Velino River over the Marmore Cliff, thus creating this waterfall. About 1950, the water was diverted for hydroelectric power, turning the falls into a trickle. Fortunately, at specific times on weekdays, Saturdays and holidays, the water is set free to tumble down the falls.
Barron Falls, located in Barron Gorge National Park, about 19 miles northwest of Cairns, Australia, was once considered to be the most impressive waterfall in that country, with a fall of 600 feet. But construction of hydroelectric power plants, starting in 1935, have reduced this falls to a trickle in the dry season. However when surplus water is available, the control gates are opened, providing tourists on a passing train with an opportunity to take photos.
Maria Cristina Falls is located on the Agus River, about 5 miles southwest of the City of Iligan, on the Island of Mindanao in the Philippines. This awesome twin waterfall is 320 feet high. But since the 1950's, the river has been used to power turbines of a hydroelectric plant, greatly diminishing the flow over the falls. However, during times when there is more than enough water for the hydroelectric plant, the falls are briefly returned to their natural state on Sundays.
At Tanygrisiau Falls, located about 190 miles northwest of London, England, an interesting plan has saved these falls from destruction. Two reservoirs have been constructed near the falls. The water from the upper reservoir powers the turbines of a power station and then flows into the lower reservoir. At night, when demand for electricity is low, the water is pumped back into the upper reservoir. The flow water in streams entering the upper reservoir is measured, and an equal amount of water is allowed to flow over the falls. So it is as if the power station had not been constructed.
At Trollhattan Falls, Cascata delle Marmore, Barron Falls, Maria Cristina Falls, and Tanygrisiau Falls an important lesson has been learned: when benefits are gained from the use of a natural resource, it also means that there will be a loss. At least at these waterfalls people have a chance to see the waterfall restored to its former glory. At Niagara Falls there is no such chance.
You can help improve Niagara Falls by contacting one or all of the agencies listed below. Express your views on the diversion of water from Niagara Falls. Restoring the full flow of water over the falls for a few hours, on the first Sunday of the summer months, would let people experience the falls as Mother Nature intended.
Created by the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909, the duties of the International Joint Commission include resolving disputes over the use of waters along the border between the United States of America and Canada.
Established by the International Joint Commission in 1953, the duties of the International Niagara Board of Control include overseeing the regulation of water levels in the Chippawa-Grass Island Pool. This pool is located roughly 2 miles up-river of the falls and is where water is diverted for the hydroelectric plants.
Your comments and
suggestions about this web page, and restoring Niagara Falls to its former glory, are strongly encouraged. Send your e-mail to Falzguy.
I will update this page whenever new information becomes available or other changes need to be made. So please check back often. Last updated 03/13/2009.
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