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The rivers of Ecuador are an important part of the nation's geography and economy. Most of the over 2,000 rivers and streams have headwaters in the Andes mountain range, flowing therefrom either westward toward the Pacific Ocean or eastward toward the Amazon River. Narrow in the highlands, the majority of the rivers broaden as they reach the lower elevations of the Coast and Oriente. During the rainy season, which lasts from January to April, the rivers that drain into the Pacific flood and often cause damage.
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.
Prior 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.
This listing is arranged by drainage basin, with respective tributaries indented under each larger stream's name.