New guidance to help improve the sustainability of river hydro schemes

Building a hydropower facility on a waterway will inevitably lead to some changes in downstream flows, with implications for river users and local ecosystems requiring responsible management.  

To support developers and operators to maximise project benefits and minimise adverse impacts, the International Hydropower Association (IHA) has published a new How-to Guide on Downstream Flow Regimes.


The guide is based on the internationally recognised Hydropower Sustainability Tools and will equip practitioners with the knowledge to achieve good international industry practice in river management throughout a project’s life-cycle.  

Joao Costa, Head of Sustainability at IHA, said: “This guide will help offer developers and operators  practical solutions to downstream flows issues to identify, manage and avoid potential downstream flow impacts. Those that adopt the practices outlined here will enhance positive outcomes for all river users. This will support stakeholder acceptance, regulatory approval and access to finance.”

Joerg Hartmann, a consultant and the author of the guide, said: “Sustainability in hydropower is in many ways about finding an appropriate, broadly acceptable balance in project development. Our guide is intended to support design and operational decisions that result in balanced outcomes, for power generation, downstream ecosystems and socio-economic needs.”

Leah Anne Beche, Aquatic Ecologist at Électricité de France (EDF) who reviewed the guide, said: “The science behind downstream flow management has evolved considerably in the past 20 years, as has social awareness of this issue. It is a key consideration for sustainable hydropower development and operation.  

“This guide provides much needed practical guidance and examples for all project stages and types of hydro schemes, for both specialists and non-specialists. As such, it is a very important and welcome addition to the suite of Hydropower Sustainability Tools.”

Duncan Rusell, an independent consultant who also reviewed the guide, said: “Successful, sustainable hydropower requires decision-making that addresses multidisciplinary issues, involving a wide range of individuals throughout a project's life cycle. This guide provides an accessible and practical approach to navigating this complexity.”  

Download the IHA How-to Guide on Hydropower Downstream Flow Regimes.

About IHA  

The International Hydropower Association (IHA) is a non-profit membership organisation committed to sustainable hydropower. Our mission is to advance sustainable hydropower by building and sharing knowledge on its role in renewable energy systems, responsible freshwater management and climate change solutions. We achieve this through sector monitoring, advancing strategies that strengthen performance, and building an open, innovative and trusted platform for knowledge.  

Read about the Hydropower Sustainability Tools and Good Practice on Downstream Flow Regimes.

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