Environmental Management

, Volume 58, Issue 3, pp 365–385 | Cite as

Organizing Environmental Flow Frameworks to Meet Hydropower Mitigation Needs

  • Ryan A. McManamay
  • Shannon K. Brewer
  • Henriette I. Jager
  • Matthew J. Troia


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.


Dams Rivers Regulation Policy Environmental flow Hydrology 



This research was sponsored by the US Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Wind and Water Power Technologies Program. This manuscript has been authored by UT-Battelle, LLC under Contract No. DE-AC05-00OR22725 with the US Department of Energy. The United States Government retains and the publisher, by accepting the article for publication, acknowledges that the United States Government retains a nonexclusive, paid-up, irrevocable, world-wide license to publish or reproduce the published form of this manuscript, or allow others to do so, for United States Government purposes. The Department of Energy will provide public access to these results of federally sponsored research in accordance with the DOE Public Access Plan ( Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. We thank Colin Shea, Kevin Whalen, and three anonymous reviewers for providing comments and editorial suggestions on earlier versions of this manuscript.

Supplementary material

267_2016_726_MOESM1_ESM.docx (24 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 24 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York (outside the USA) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ryan A. McManamay
    • 1
  • Shannon K. Brewer
    • 2
  • Henriette I. Jager
    • 1
  • Matthew J. Troia
    • 1
  1. 1.Environmental Sciences DivisionOak Ridge National LaboratoryOak RidgeUSA
  2. 2.U.S. Geological Survey, Oklahoma Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research UnitOklahoma State UniversityStillwaterUSA

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