Researchers engineer a river that can be turned on and off

That's one way of controlling nature's finicky elements.
Loukia Papadopoulos

Studying river erosion in nature is a difficult subject, as the elements cannot be controlled. You can’t, for instance, remove rock and add greenery to see what effects it has on the river’s surroundings.

This is why researchers at the University of Sherbrooke, in Quebec, Canada, built an artificial river that can be turned off and on and whose elements can be completely controlled. 

The ambitious project consists of a 90m x 40m watershed, a 50m x 3m artificial river, and an accompanying pond designed to be fed only by rainwater. In total, it is estimated that the aqueous structure will contain about 3500 cubic meters of water, equivalent to an Olympic pool. The infrastructures will serve as a laboratory to study principles such as water flow and the presence of contaminants. As for the river, it will work in a closed circuit and will sink in a floodplain of 20 meters in width, in order to examine the elements present in connection with floods. It will be able to turn off and on at the researchers’ request.