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Organizing environmental flow frameworks to meet hydropower mitigation needs

November 1, 2016

The global recognition of the importance of natural flow regimes to sustain the ecological integrity of river systems has led to increased societal pressure on the hydropower industry to change plant operations to improve downstream aquatic ecosystems. However, a complete reinstatement of natural flow regimes is often unrealistic when balancing water needs for ecosystems, energy production, and other human uses. Thus, stakeholders must identify a prioritized subset of flow prescriptions that meet ecological objectives in light of realistic constraints. Yet, isolating aspects of flow regimes to restore downstream of hydropower facilities is among the greatest challenges of environmental flow science due, in part, to the sheer volume of available environmental flow tools in conjunction with complex negotiation-based regulatory procedures. Herein, we propose an organizational framework that structures information and existing flow paradigms into a staged process that assists stakeholders in implementing environmental flows for hydropower facilities. The framework identifies areas where regulations fall short of the needed scientific process, and provide suggestions for stakeholders to ameliorate those situations through advanced preparation. We highlight the strengths of existing flow paradigms in their application to hydropower settings and suggest when and where tools are most applicable. Our suggested framework increases the effectiveness and efficiency of the e-flow implementation process by rapidly establishing a knowledge base and decreasing uncertainty so more time can be devoted to filling knowledge gaps. Lastly, the framework provides the structure for a coordinated research agenda to further the science of environmental flows related to hydropower environments.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2016
Title Organizing environmental flow frameworks to meet hydropower mitigation needs
DOI 10.1007/s00267-016-0726-y
Authors Ryan A. McManamay, Shannon K. Brewer, Henriette Jager, Matthew J. Troia
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Environmental Management
Index ID 70178036
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Atlanta

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