Designing River Flows to Manage Both Food & Energy Demands

Designing River Flows to Manage Both Food & Energy Demands

The Mekong River provides food for nearly 60 million people across 6 different countries. The 8th largest river in the world, the Mekong supports the largest lake and wetland in Southeast Asia, Tonle Sap Lake, which boasts an annual fishery harvest of roughly 250,000 tonnes. Dam construction along the Mekong and its tributaries may provide a clean energy source to this region of the world, but it also threatens freshwater fisheries critical for local livelihoods.

A new article published in Science and co-authored by SAFS professor and FWI member Dr. Gordon Holtgrieve offers a potential way to mitigate tradeoffs between hydropower development and fishery yields in the Lower Mekong Basin. Using 17 years of data, the researchers developed an algorithm to predict fishery yields from river flow and used it to design an ideal flow regime that would provide ample water for hydropower and also support the fishery. The result is a management strategy which may actually increase fishery yields in the Mekong River and other tropical rivers facing similar pressures worldwide.

Dr. Julian Olden, SAFS professor and FWI member, also co-authored a Perspective article on the integration of science, socioeconomics, and policy with regards to managing large rivers with dams, published in the same issue of Science. That commentary can be found here.

To read the UW News coverage of this article, click here.

To read the original research article, click here.