Hydropower electricity generation is considered one of the cheapest technologies regarding electricity generation costs, and it is the most traditional, clean, renewable energy source. However, despite the environmental benefits offered by hydropower, they also can have negative impacts and consequences in the environment affecting water quality and disrupting river ecology. We investigated the environmental effects of four small hydropower plants (SPH) in north-west Spain by looking at the water quality of the four river stretches where the SPH plants are located. The physicochemical and biological characteristics of the water streams were analyzed, as well as the riparian ecological quality. Results showed that the presence of the hydropower plants did not significantly influence the physical and chemical characteristics of the water. There were no alterations of the benthic macroinvertebrate community at any of the plants except for one, and the riparian habitat was in general classified as good quality or close to natural conditions for all plants.
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