About this Research Topic
River flow has been described as the “master variable” which influences the condition of many freshwater ecosystems. Widespread and significant alteration of river flow regimes around the world, linked to dam construction and abstraction of water for multiple human uses, is a significant cause of observed rapid declines in freshwater biodiversity. Altered flows also impact on the maintenance of a range of important ecosystem goods and services.
In 2007, the Brisbane Declaration on Environmental Flows set out a global action agenda that addressed the urgent need to protect river flows globally. The Declaration defined the “environmental flow” of a river as “the quantity, timing, and quality of water flows required to sustain freshwater and estuarine ecosystems and the human livelihoods and well-being that depend on these ecosystems.” In recent decades scientists have made substantial strides in the development of tools and techniques that can help to define environmental flow requirements in specific river systems. Governments and water management authorities across the world have developed policies and laws to recognize the role that environmental flows should have in river management and water allocation plans. However, implementation of such flows in practice remains a challenge, largely because of a lack of political will and stakeholder support, institutional barriers and insufficient resources and capacity in water management organizations.
The purpose of the Research Topic is to provide new insights and evidence on how environmental flows can be implemented in practice. We particularly welcome case studies which take a multi-disciplinary view, drawing on social as well as biophysical sciences, and which analyse how political, cultural, institutional and economic barriers to implementation have been overcome such that river flows have been successfully protected or restored. We also welcome studies which extrapolate internationally-applicable lessons from one or more river management contexts in which water allocation regimes have been revised, or water infrastructure operational regimes have been amended, in order to protect or restore environmental flows.
Keywords: environmental flows, river management, water policy, water security, water governance