GeographyThe two main water systems are the Esmeraldas River in the North and the Guayas in the South.
The Esmeraldas begins as the Guayllabamba River in the Sierra, flowing west before emptying in the Pacific near the city of Esmeraldas.
The Guayas forms to the north of Guayaquil, where the Daule and the Babahoyo Rivers converge. The Babahayo arises from its tributaries in the Andes. The Guayas basin covers 40,000 square kilometers.
The most important rivers in the Oriente are the Pastaza, Napo, and Putumayo. The Pastaza includes the Agoyan Waterfall, Ecuador's highest.
EconomyPrior to the arrival of Europeans, the indigenous people of Ecuador used the rivers for fishing and transportation, although frequent waterfalls limited canoe travel in the Andes. The rivers long continued to be an important means of transportation, especially as the mountains made road and railroad building difficult.
Since the 20th century, rivers have become an important source of electric power in Ecuador. As of 2006, hydroelectric dams have a capacity 1,750 megawatts. Some critics have noted that these projects have tended to be "substantially oversized" without "delivering the promised energy benefits." In 2008, President Rafael Correa announced that the government planned to build eleven new hydroelectric power plants.Almost all of the dam projects face opposition from local communities that fear negative environmental impacts on the land and a lack of transparency in decision-making.
Recreational rafting on the rivers has become an important part of Ecuador's tourism-based economy.