Environmental Management

, Volume 55, Issue 1, pp 217–243 | Cite as

A Multi-scale Spatial Approach to Address Environmental Effects of Small Hydropower Development

  • Ryan A. McManamay
  • Nicole Samu
  • Shih-Chieh Kao
  • Mark S. Bevelhimer
  • Shelaine C. Hetrick


Hydropower development continues to grow worldwide in developed and developing countries. While the ecological and physical responses to dam construction have been well documented, translating this information into planning for hydropower development is extremely difficult. Very few studies have conducted environmental assessments to guide site-specific or widespread hydropower development. Herein, we propose a spatial approach for estimating environmental effects of hydropower development at multiple scales, as opposed to individual site-by-site assessments (e.g., environmental impact assessment). Because the complex, process-driven effects of future hydropower development may be uncertain or, at best, limited by available information, we invested considerable effort in describing novel approaches to represent environmental concerns using spatial data and in developing the spatial footprint of hydropower infrastructure. We then use two case studies in the US, one at the scale of the conterminous US and another within two adjoining rivers basins, to examine how environmental concerns can be identified and related to areas of varying energy capacity. We use combinations of reserve-design planning and multi-metric ranking to visualize tradeoffs among environmental concerns and potential energy capacity. Spatial frameworks, like the one presented, are not meant to replace more in-depth environmental assessments, but to identify information gaps and measure the sustainability of multi-development scenarios as to inform policy decisions at the basin or national level. Most importantly, the approach should foster discussions among environmental scientists and stakeholders regarding solutions to optimize energy development and environmental sustainability.


Dams Energy policy Reserve design Marxan Landscape ecology 



This research was sponsored by the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Wind and Water Power Technologies Program. This paper has been authored by employees of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, managed by UT-Battelle, LLC, under contract DE-AC05-00OR22725 with the US Department of Energy. Accordingly, the publisher, by accepting the article for publication, acknowledges that the US Government retains a nonexclusive, paid-up, irrevocable, worldwide license to publish or reproduce the published form of this manuscript or allow others to do so, for US Government purposes. We thank Virginia Dale and three anonymous reviewers for providing comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. Special appreciation goes to Brenna Elrod for assisting with compiling ecological data and Fayzul Pasha, Dilruba Yeasmin, Abdoul A. Oubeidillah, Kevin M. Stewart, Yaxing Wei, and Boualem Hadjerioua for determining energy estimates for new development. Also, we thank Frankie Green, Joan Harn, Timothy McCune, Jim Parham, John Seebach, Jonathan Higgins, Mark Anderson, Mike Sale, Paul Jacobson, and Scott Robinson for providing reviews of methods and suggestions for data sources. Last, we thank Brennan Smith for leadership in the project and Hoyt Battey and TJ Heibel for support and project review.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 4 (PDF 392 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York (outside the USA) 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ryan A. McManamay
    • 1
  • Nicole Samu
    • 1
  • Shih-Chieh Kao
    • 1
  • Mark S. Bevelhimer
    • 1
  • Shelaine C. Hetrick
    • 1
  1. 1.Environmental Sciences DivisionOak Ridge National LaboratoryOak RidgeUSA

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