Dam Removal Europe

For free flowing Rivers

Dam Removal, a second chance for our rivers and our society

Hundreds of thousands of dams and weirs block European rivers (almost 90 000 in France). These barriers have strong impacts on the natural functioning of rivers, aquatic habitats and fish migrations, creating serious ecological imbalances.

It is clear that not all dams can, or have to, be removed because many have important functions required by society, including water supply and water safety. However, in most cases the removal of obsolete dams is a viable solution for river restoration. Dam removal restores local river morphology and results in a return to natural functioning for sediment dynamics and river wildlife. No other restoration measures, for example fish passes, can do this.

Dam removal restores the morphology, the natural functioning and the dynamics of the river (sediments, fish fauna). But it is also an option to be considered in contributing to the objectives of the WFD, and water quality improvement, fish migration route and fish populations improvement, particularly for long migratory species, restoring free ecosystemique services, mitigate the impacts of climate change through more resilient aquatic ecosystems, lowering maintenance and repair costs, improved regional economy (high quality rural landscape), increase the link between man and river and sense of local connection and pride.

“Dam Removal Europe” helps to promote this vision

To promote and inform about the benefits of dam removal, European Rivers Network, WWF, World Fish Migration Fundation Rewilding Europe, River trust, founded in 2016 “Dam Removal Europe” (DRE) coalition and project. In late 2019 and early 2020, “The Nature Conservancy” and “Wetlands International” joined the group.

DRE aim to promote the idea of dam removal through Europe by creating a community of people, organizations and governments that are committed to giving more space to the European rivers by eliminating the small and large unnecessary or impacting dams and provides tools and arguments for the restoration of ecological continuity.

Dam Removal Europe actions and tools

DRE uses innovative tools to grown the network. For example WWF NL started a crowdfunding campaign for dam removal, WFMF creates fashion and sporty DRE clothes, organizes the world fish migration day, WWF Finland launched a great media campaign. ERN documents (photos, video, drone) the removal of the Sélune dams and coordinates international media, etc. All the partners participate and contribute to the organization of international seminars (ERN organized the one on Sélune in 2019), to the writing and editing of brochures, policy report, etc. A website and newsletter allow to share news, case studies, happy stories, knowledge, etc.

Milestones and succes of Dam Removal Europe

– A DAM BUSTERS film released in 2022, running time 1h15

– At the initiative of the European Open Rivers Programme, which aims to finance the removal of weirs in Europe from 2021.

– The creation of a Dam Removal award since 2021

– Strong announcements concern rivers and the restoration of ecological continuity in the UE Biodiversity strategy 2030  : the 27 will have to have freed up 25 000 km of rivers.

– Growing network : > 1200 persons and strong connection with USA expert network. Media and social media audience.

– End 2019 : 7 international events organised (Spain – Leon 2016, UK 2017, Spain – Madrid 2018, Sweden 2018, Lithuania 2018, Estonia 2019, France – Sélune 2019, DRE Goes Alps 2021, Lisbon 2022, UK 2022, Roumania 2023, Free flow conférence à Groningen 2023 )

– A database with over 5.000 removed obstacles

– Directly involved in dozens dam removals, also using crowdfunding

– Policy change on dam removal in several countries (Finland, Sweden, Estonia, etc.)

– Site Web www.damremoval.eu with dozens showcase projects.

– Annual publication of reports on dam removal in Europe 2018, 2021, 2022, 2023

DRE plateform partners are supported by 24 others organisations