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What problems am I going to have to address with regards to man-made continent wide/spanning rivers ? Ecological hazard, erosion, pollution ?

CLARIFICATION : This is a completely fantastical setting, magic taking the place of technology for the most part. My purpose is twofold. 1) a steady water supply independent of rain/building aquaduct structures/piping (instead of going out looking for water you make the water come to you); 2) a faster cheaper (something something magic) means of transportation (for example even transporting food to the most remote and desolate places of this mind numbingly / dumb Empire. Those places which would in turn send things back in exchange, things that they specialize in making/harvesting)

CONTEXT (Copypasta of my response to @AtorGade' answer) : The setting is completely wacky. This is very a intentional decision on my behalf, it's just the kind of silly atmosphere I'm looking for. My fictional empire would be an-all encompassing entity, impossibly big in size and scope even if most of it is going to be uninhabited (Forest...etc). The empire and it's governing bodies are going to have a great role, especially with regards to land management. Strategically placing of cities, villages and infrastructure, taking full account of variables such as terrain. (Canals would only be used in flattest regions.)

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    $\begingroup$ You misunderstand, canals is what we used before roads. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Apr 21 '20 at 18:17
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    $\begingroup$ This is already feasible under no-magic setting with canals. What exactly is your question? $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Apr 21 '20 at 18:36
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    $\begingroup$ Just a heads up: the photo in question does not show a river, it shows a navigation canal. In particular, it's the Manchester Ship Canal, dug towards the end of the 19th century. Navigation canals are not rivers, the major difference being that in general water doesn't naturally flow in them. They are filled with water from some source, using various ingenious means. Canals are by and large made of several almost horizontal segments, with locks between them. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Apr 21 '20 at 18:42
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    $\begingroup$ You also need an economy that can use the transport and population that needs the food. Even with magic that would be bronze or iron age with extras. So you are better off thinking something similar to the Roman Empire. $\endgroup$ Apr 21 '20 at 18:43
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    $\begingroup$ One of the problems with canals is that they work well only on plains. As soon as you have mountains, or just sizeable hills, canals become impractical. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Apr 21 '20 at 18:49
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Completely unfeasible by real world standards, unless this particular society is obsessed with extravagant and over-the-top lifestyle and architecture. Taking this stance, the weirdness would extend beyond roads/canals, making houses (and many other buildings) on stilts the norm, and bringing boats into a light similar to cars, with sleek, exotic shapes, louder engines, and way more manufacturers. I like the idea, but it would take a HUGE overhaul.

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    $\begingroup$ "Completely unfeasible by real world standards": England did it, from the 17th to the 19th century. The Netherlands did it. France and Germany made credible attempts (but they never reached the canal network density of England). Whether it is feasible or not depends on the specifics of the territory. Is the country mostly flat-ish, with any hills made of soft rock? Does it have plenty of water? If the answer to both question is yes, then a pervasive network of canals is feasible. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Apr 21 '20 at 18:53
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People can't walk on liquids. So it's a strange thing to prefer waterways everywhere than road ways.

So you would need a very strong motivation for this to happen. Like some kind of magic water in which even the heaviest metal will float or something like that.

You would need huge reactors all over the continent that take energy in whatever form and pump out our magic water.

The boats don't need any special machinery since the magic water has so little friction (surface tension and viscosity). [Reminder that real life liquids with such qualities are also very volatile and light in weight. So this must be a magic water.]

As for environmental effects, it would be mainly from the reactors depending on the technology you want to use.

You could replace reactors with captured angels and magic water as diluted angel tears and so on. Your world, your choice.

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