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Environmental flows from dams: the water framework directive

Acreman, M.; Aldrick, J.; Binnie, C.; Black, A.; Cowx, I.; Dawson, H.; Dunbar, M.; Extence, C.; Hannaford, J.; Harby, A.; Holmes, N.; Jarritt, N.; Old, G.; Peirson, G.; Webb, J.; Wood, P.


M. Acreman

J. Aldrick

C. Binnie

A. Black

I. Cowx

H. Dawson

M. Dunbar

C. Extence

J. Hannaford

A. Harby

N. Holmes

N. Jarritt

G. Old

G. Peirson

J. Webb

P. Wood


The EU water framework directive (WFD) provides a template for sustainable water management across Europe. The WFD requires the development of procedures to ensure appropriate mitigation of anthropogenic impacts on river ecosystems resulting from water abstraction and impoundments. It is widely acknowledged that alterations to flow regime impact on riverine ecosystems. As a result, hydromorphology, which includes the hydrological regime, is embedded within the WFD as a supporting element to achieve good ecological status (GES). Environmental flow releases from impoundments such as reservoir dams will need to be implemented to mitigate impacts from their construction and operation. This paper outlines the process involved in the analysis of available scientific information and the development of guidance criteria for the setting of environmental flow release regimes for UK rivers. The paper describes two methods-developed by round-table expert knowledge and discussions and supported by available data-for implementation of the WFD for rivers subject to impoundments. The first is a method for preliminary assessment of a water body to determine if it is likely to fail to achieve GES because of changes to the flow regime (indexed by simple flow regime statistics) in systems where appropriate biological assessment methods are limited or currently unavailable. The second is a method for defining an environmental flow regime release based on the requirements of riverine ecological communities and indicator organisms for basic elements (building blocks) of the natural flow regime.


Acreman, M., Aldrick, J., Binnie, C., Black, A., Cowx, I., Dawson, H., …Wood, P. (2009). Environmental flows from dams: the water framework directive. Proceedings of the ICE - Engineering Sustainability, 162(1), 13-22.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 31, 2009
Online Publication Date May 25, 2015
Publication Date Mar 1, 2009
Print ISSN 1478-4629
Electronic ISSN 1751-7680
Publisher ICE Publishing
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 162
Issue 1
Pages 13-22
Keywords Civil and Structural Engineering
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