CSIRO Publishing blank image blank image blank image blank imageBooksblank image blank image blank image blank imageJournalsblank image blank image blank image blank imageAbout Usblank image blank image blank image blank imageShopping Cartblank image blank image blank image You are here: Journals > Marine & Freshwater Research   
Marine & Freshwater Research
Journal Banner
  Advances in the Aquatic Sciences
blank image Search
blank image blank image
blank image
  Advanced Search

Journal Home
About the Journal
Editorial Board
Online Early
Current Issue
Just Accepted
All Issues
Special Issues
Research Fronts
Sample Issue
For Authors
General Information
Instructions to Authors
Submit Article
Open Access
For Referees
General Information
Review an Article
Referee Guidelines
Annual Referee Index
For Subscribers
Subscription Prices
Customer Service
Print Publication Dates

blue arrow e-Alerts
blank image
Subscribe to our Email Alert or RSS feeds for the latest journal papers.

red arrow Connect with us
blank image
facebook twitter youtube


Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 62(3)

Taking a second look: climate change, periodic relicensing and improved management of dams

Jamie Pittock A C and Joerg Hartmann B

A Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.
B Dams Initiative Leader, WWF International, Rebstoecker Strasse 55, 60326 Frankfurt/Main, Germany.
C Corresponding author. Email: Jamie.pittock@anu.edu.au

Marine and Freshwater Research 62(3) 312-320 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MF09302
Submitted: 3 December 2009  Accepted: 16 November 2010   Published: 18 March 2011

PDF (114 KB) $25
 Export Citation

Dams affect rivers and other freshwater ecosystems around the world. The structural performance and service delivery of many dams has seldom been assessed; many are unsafe and no longer deliver designed benefits. Changes in hydrology from climate change will require assessment of safety and operations of infrastructure. This creates an opportunity during relicensing for modification or removal of dams to render them safe, maximise their services and minimise social and environmental impacts. We examined case studies of reassessment of dams from Australia (New South Wales), China, France and the United States that illustrated the following: the management challenge of aging and unsafe dams; unrealised opportunities to improve environmental, social and economic benefits; and the benefits of inventory and relicensing systems. Key elements of an ideal regulatory system to optimise water infrastructure performance are identified, comprising periodic (time-limited) relicensing of all infrastructure overseen by an independent regulatory agency that would take decisions in the public interest through a transparent process, involving public participation. Each dam would have an identified owner who must apply best-available technologies to maximise safety, socioeconomic and environmental performance. Dam renovation could minimise current non-climate impacts, improve migration of aquatic wildlife and even attenuate some climate impacts on freshwater biota.

Additional keywords: climate change adaptation, dam reoperation, dam safety, environmental flows, fish passage, public participation, regulation, rivers, thermal pollution, water.


ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) (2009). ‘Report Card for America’s Infrastructure.’ (American Society of Civil Engineers: Reston, VA.) Available at http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/report-cards [accessed 1 September 2009].

Barrett, J. (Ed.) (2008). The sea to Hume Dam: restoring fish passage in the Murray River. Murray–Darling Basin Commission, MDBC Publication No. 32/08, Canberra. Available at http://www.mdbc.gov.au/__data/page/672/The_Sea_to_Hume_Report.pdf [accessed 18 July 2010].

Barrett, J., and Mallen-Cooper, M. (2006). The Murray River’s ‘Sea to Hume Dam’ fish passage program: progress to date and lessons learned. Ecological Management & Restoration 7, 173–183.
CrossRef |

Bates, B. C., Kundzewicz, Z. W., Wu, S., and Palutikof, J. P. (Eds) (2008). Climate change and water. Technical paper of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. IPCC Secretariat, Geneva.

Bermann, C. (2007). Impasses e controvérsias da hidreletricidade. Estudos Avançados 21, 139–153.

Bowman, B., Higgs, S., Maclin, E., McClain, S., Sicchio, M., et al. (2002). ‘Exploring Dam Removal. A Decision-making Guide.’ (American Rivers and Trout Unlimited: Washington, DC.)

Bradlow, D. D., Palmieri, A., and Salmar, S. M. A. (2002). ‘Regulatory Frameworks for Dam Safety.’ (World Bank: Washington, DC.)

CAoWMiA (Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture) (2007). ‘Water for Food, Water for Life. A Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture.’ (Earthscan and International Water Management Institute: London.)

CIADT (Comité Interministériel de l’Aménagement et du Développement du Territoire) (1994). ‘Le Plan Loire Grandeur Nature.’ (Comité Interministériel de l’Aménagement et du Développement du Territoire: Paris.) Available at http://www.plan-loire.fr/ [accessed 11 July 2010].

Clay, C. H. (1995). ‘Design of Fishways and Other Fish Facilities.’ 2nd edn. (CRC Press: Boca Raton, FL.)

Connor, R., and Dovers, S. (2004). ‘Institutional Change for Sustainable Development.’ (Edward Elgar Publishing: Cheltenham, UK.)

Cowx, I. G., and Welcomme, R. L. (1998.) ‘Rehabilitation of Rivers for Fish.’ (FAO and Fishing News Books: Oxford, UK.)

Daufresne, M., and Boet, P. (2007). Climate change impacts on structure and diversity of fish communities in rivers. Global Change Biology 13, 2467–2478.
CrossRef |

de Fraiture, C., Giordano, M., and Liao, Y. (2008). Biofuels and implications for agricultural water use: blue impacts of green energy. Water Policy 10, 67–81.
CrossRef |

DLWC (Department of Land and Water Conservation) (1997). NSW weirs policy. NSW Department of Land and Water Conservation, Sydney. Available at http://www.water.nsw.gov.au [accessed 18 July 2010].

DPI (Department of Primary Industries) (2006). The assessment and modification of barriers to fish passage in the Namoi Catchment. Report to the Namoi Catchment Management Authority. Department of Primary Industries, Tamworth, NSW. Available at http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/185944/Namoi-Report.pdf [accessed 4 September 2009].

FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) (2009). Draft environmental assessment. Application for surrender of license Veazie, GreatWorks, and Howland Projects. FERC Project Nos 2403–056, 2312–019 and 2721–020. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC. Available at http://www.penobscotriver.org/assets/FERC_Environmental_Assessment_-_Draft_8-4-09.pdf [accessed 28 August 2009].

Fuggle, R., and Smith, W. T. (2000). Large dams in water and energy resource development in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). World Commission on Dams, Cape Town. Available at http://www.dams.org [accessed 18 July 2010].

Garcia de Leaniz, C. (2008). Weir removal in salmonid streams: implications, challenges and practicalities. Hydrobiologia 609, 83–96.
CrossRef |

Gehrke, P. C., and Harris, J. H. (2001). Regional-scale effects of flow regulation on lowland riverine fish communities in New South Wales, Australia. Regulated Rivers: Research and Management 17, 369–391.
CrossRef |

Government of China (2007). China’s national climate change programme. National Reform and Development Commission, Government of China, Beijing. Available at http://www.ccchina.gov.cn/WebSite/CCChina/UpFile/File188.pdf [accessed 18 July 2010].

Gosnell, H., and Kelly, E. C. (2010). Peace on the river? Social-ecological restoration and large dam removal in the Klamath basin, USA. Water Alternatives 3, 362–383.

Hallegatte, S. (2009). Strategies to adapt to an uncertain climate change. Global Environmental Change 19, 240–247.
CrossRef |

Hart, D. D., and Poff, N. L. (2002). A special section on dam removal and river restoration. BioScience 52, 653–655.
CrossRef |

Hirji, R., and Davis, R. (2009). ‘Environmental Flows in Water Resources Policies, Plans, and Projects. Findings and Recommendations.’ (The World Bank: Washington, DC.)

Howard, C. D. D. (2000). Operations, monitoring and decommissioning of dams. World Commission on Dams, Cape Town. Available at http://www.dams.org [accessed 18 July 2010].

HSAF (Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Forum) (2010). Recommended final draft hydropower sustainability assessment protocol. Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Forum, International Hydropower Association, Sutton. Available at http://www.hydropower.org/sustainable_hydropower/Recommended_Final_Draft_Sustainability_Protocol_IHA_20100917.pdf [accessed 7 October 2010].

Hu, Y. (2008). Three-year plan to renovate nation’s dams. China Daily 17 January 2008. Available at www.mwr.gov.cn/english/20080117/88878.asp [accessed 21 February 2008].

ICOLD (International Commission on Large Dams) (2007). ‘Dams and the World’s Water.’ (International Commission on Large Dams: Paris.)

IHA (International Hydropower Association) (2006). Sustainability assessment protocol. International Hydropower Association, Sutton. Available at http://www.hydropower.org [accessed 18 July 2010].

IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) (2007). Impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Climate Change 2007: Working Group II. Contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 4th assessment report. International Panel on Climate Change, Geneva.

Kingsford, R. T. (1999). Managing the water of the Border Rivers in Australia: irrigation, government and the wetland environment. Wetlands Ecology and Management 7, 25–35.
CrossRef |

Kingsford, R. T., and Thomas, R. F. (2004). Destruction of wetlands and waterbird populations by dams and irrigation on the Murrumbidgee River in arid Australia. Environmental Management 34, 383–396.
CrossRef | CAS | PubMed |

Krchnak, K., Richter, B., and Thomas, G. (2009). ‘Integrating Environmental Flows into Hydropower Dam Planning, Design, and Operations.’ (World Bank Group: Washington, DC.)

Larnier, M., and Marmulla, G. (2004). Fish passes: types, principles and geographical distribution – an overview. In ‘Proceedings of the 2nd International Symposium on the Management of Large Rivers for Fisheries, Phnom Penh, 2003’. (Eds R. Welcomme and T. Petr.) pp. 183–207. (FAO and Mekong River Commission: Bangkok.) Available at http://www.fao.org/docrep/007/ad526e/ad526e00.htm#Contents [accessed 18 July 2010].

Lee, K. N. (1993). ‘Compass and Gyroscope: Integrating Science and Politics for the Environment.’ (Island Press: Washington, DC.)

Lejon, A. G. C., Malm Renöfält, B., and Nilsson, C. (2009). Conflicts associated with dam removal in Sweden. Ecology and Society 14, 4.

Lindloff, S. (2000). ‘Dam Removal. A Citizen’s Guide to Restoring Rivers.’ (River Alliance of Wisconsin and Trout Unlimited: Madison, WI.)

Madani, K., and Lund, J. (2010). Estimated impacts of climate warming on California’s high-elevation hydropower. Climatic Change 102, 521–538.
CrossRef |

March, P. A., and Fisher, R. K. (1999). It’s not easy being green: environmental technologies enhance conventional hydropower’s role in sustainable development. Annual Review of Energy and the Environment 24, 173–188.
CrossRef |

McCully, P. (2001). ‘Silenced Rivers: The Ecology and Politics of Large Dams: Enlarged and Updated Edition.’ (Zed Books: London.)

MEA (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment) (2005). ‘Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: Wetlands and Water Synthesis.’ (World Resources Institute: Washington, DC.)

Meijerink, S., and Huitema, D. (2009). Water transitions, policy entrepreneurs and change strategies: lessons learned. In ‘Water Policy Entrepreneurs. A Research Companion to Water Transitions Around the Globe’. (Eds D. Huitema and S. Meijerink.) pp. 371–391. (Edward Elgar Publishing: Cheltenham, UK.)

Milly, P. C. D., Betancourt, J., Falkenmark, M., Hirsch, R. M., Kundzewicz, Z. W., et al. (2008). Stationarity is dead: whither water management? Science 319, 573–574.
CrossRef | CAS | PubMed |

MWR (Ministry of Water Resources) (2010). Reservoir safety. Ministry of Water Resources the People’s Republic of China, Beijing. Available at http://www.mwr.gov.cn/english/rs.html [accessed 18 July 2010].

Nilsson, C., Reidy, C. A., Dynesius, M., and Revenga, C. (2005). Fragmentation and flow regulation of the world’s large river systems. Science 308, 405–408.
CrossRef | CAS | PubMed |

Odeh, M. (1999). DOE/ID/1374. July 1999. A summary of environmentally friendly turbine design concepts. Advanced hydropower turbine system program. Under contract DE-AI07-99ID13741. US Department of Energy, Idaho Operations Office, Boise, ID. Available at http://hydropower.inel.gov/turbines/pdfs/doeid-13741.pdf [accessed 18 July 2010].

Olden, J. D., and Naiman, R. J. (2009). Incorporating thermal regimes into environmental flows assessments: modifying dam operations to restore freshwater ecosystem integrity. Freshwater Biology 55, 86–107.
CrossRef |

Opperman, J. J., Galloway, G. E., Fargione, J., Mount, J. F., Richter, B. D., et al. (2009). Sustainable floodplains through large-scale reconnection to rivers. Science 326, 1487–1488.
CrossRef | CAS | PubMed |

Palmer, M. A., Reidy Liermann, C. A., Nilsson, C., Florke, M., Alcamo, J., et al. (2008). Climate change and the world’s river basins: anticipating management options. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 6, 81–89.
CrossRef |

Pearce, F. (2006). ‘When the Rivers Run Dry.’ (Eden Project Books: London.)

Pittock, J. (2009). Lessons for climate change adaptation from better management of rivers. Climate and Development 1, 194–211.
CrossRef |

Pittock, J. (2010). Better management of hydropower in an era of climate change. Water Alternatives 3, 444–452.

Pittock, J., Meng, J., Geiger, M., and Chapagain, A. K. (Eds) (2009). ‘Interbasin Water Transfers and Water Scarcity in a Changing World – A Solution or a Pipedream?’ (WWF Germany: Frankfurt am Main, Germany.) Available at http://hydropower.inel.gov/turbines/pdfs/doeid-13741.pdf [accessed 18 July 2010].

Poff, N. L., Olden, J. D., Merritt, D. M., and Pepin, D. M. (2007). Homogenization of regional river dynamics by dams and global biodiversity implications. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 104, 5732–5737.
CrossRef | CAS |

Postel, S., and Richter, B. (2003). ‘Rivers for Life: Managing Water for People and Nature.’ (Island Press: Washington, DC.)

Pyle, M. T. (1995). Beyond fish ladders: dam removal as a strategy for restoring America’s rivers. Stanford Environmental Law Journal 14, 97–144.

Ray, R. W. (2010). Restoring Sayano-Shushenskaya. Hydro Review Worldwide 18, 1.

Russo, T. N. (2000). US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. World Commission on Dams, Cape Town. Available at http://www.dams.org [accessed 18 July 2010].

Sherman, B. (2000). Scoping options for mitigating cold water discharges from dams. CSIRO Land and Water, Canberra. Available at http://www.clw.csiro.au/publications/consultancy/2000/cr00-21.pdf [accessed 18 July 2010].

Sherman, B., Todd, C. R., Koehn, J. D., and Ryan, T. (2007). Modelling the impact and potential mitigation of cold water pollution on Murray cod populations downstream of Hume Dam, Australia. River Research and Applications 23, 377–389.
CrossRef |

Steinbach, P. (2001). Situation and restoration of amphihalin migratory fishes in the Loire Basin. Bulletin Francais de la Peche et de la Pisciculture 357–360, 263–276.
CrossRef |

Steinfeld, C. M. M., and Kingsford, R. T. (2008). Floodplain development and vegetation health on the Macquarie River floodplain. School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney. Available at http://www.wetrivers.unsw.edu.au/files/unswreport_earthworks_macqriver_floodplain.pdf [accessed 1 July 2010].

Transparency International (2008). ‘Global Corruption Report 2008: Corruption in the Water Sector.’ (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK.)

USACE (US Army Corps of Engineers) (2009). National inventory of dams. US Army Corps of Engineers, Washington, DC. Available at http://crunch.tec.army.mil/nidpublic/webpages/nid.cfm [accessed 20 August 2009].

Vock, C.,, and Fournier, E. (2008). French hydro: an opportunity for meaningful competition. Infrastructure Journal 29 August 2008, .

World Bank (2004). ‘Water Resources Sector Strategy.’ World Bank, Washington, DC. Available at http://www-wds.worldbank.org/external/default/WDSContentServer/WDSP/IB/2004/06/01/000090341_20040601150257/Rendered/PDF/28114.pdf [accessed 1 September 2009].

WCD (World Commission on Dams) (2000). Dams and development: a new framework for decision-making. The report of the World Commission on Dams. Earthscan, London.

WWAP (World Water Assessment Programme) (2009). The United Nations World Water Development Report 3: water in a changing world. UNESCO Publishing and Earthscan, London.

WWF (2003.) ‘Managing Rivers Wisely: Lessons from WWF’s Work for Integrated River Basin Management.’ (WWF: Gland.) Available at www.panda.org/downloads/freshwater/managingriversintroeng.pdf [accessed 28 August 2009].

Subscriber Login

Legal & Privacy | Contact Us | Help


© CSIRO 1996-2014