Implementing environmental flows in integrated water resources management and the ecosystem approach

Overton, I.C.; Smith, D.M.; Dalton, J.; Barchiesi, S.; Acreman, M.C.; Stromberg, J.C.; Kirby, J.M.. 2014 Implementing environmental flows in integrated water resources management and the ecosystem approach. Hydrological Sciences Journal, 59 (3-4). 860-877.

Full text not available from this repository.


In many of the world’s river basins, the water resources are over-allocated and/or highly modified, access to good quality water is limited or competitive and aquatic ecosystems are degraded. The decline in aquatic ecosystems can impact on human well-being by reducing the ecosystem services provided by healthy rivers, wetlands and floodplains. Basin water resources management requires the determination of water allocation among competing stakeholders including the environment, social needs and economic development. Traditionally, this determination occurred on a volumetric basis to meet basin productivity goals. However, it is difficult to address environmental goals in such a framework, because environmental condition is rarely considered in productivity goals, and short-term variations in river flow may be the most important driver of aquatic ecosystem health. Manipulation of flows to achieve desired outcomes for public supply, food and energy has been implemented for many years. More recently, manipulating flows to achieve ecological outcomes has been proposed. However, the complexity of determining the required flow regimes and the interdependencies between stakeholder outcomes has restricted the implementation of environmental flows as a core component of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM). We demonstrate through case studies of the Rhône and Thames river basins in Europe, the Colorado River basin in North America and the Murray-Darling basin in Australia the limitations of traditional environmental flow strategies in integrated water resources management. An alternative ecosystem approach can provide a framework for implementation of environmental flows in basin water resources management, as demonstrated by management of the Pangani River basin in Africa. An ecosystem approach in IWRM leads to management for agreed triple-bottom-line outcomes, rather than productivity or ecological outcomes alone. We recommend that environmental flow management should take on the principles of an ecosystem approach and form an integral part of IWRM.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Acreman
ISSN: 0262-6667
Date made live: 14 Mar 2019 16:36 +0 (UTC)

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item

Document Downloads

Downloads for past 30 days

Downloads per month over past year

More statistics for this item...