Environmental Metrics for Hydropower

The overall intent of the project is to identify a measurable, repeatable, and broadly understandable suite of metrics for quantifying the environmental effects of hydropower.

ORNL is analyzing the metrics used to assess the environmental effects of hydropower development, along with a river function framework and a decision support tool that can assist stakeholders in hydropower licensing and permitting. Using this research, ORNL aims to create a shared catalog of terminology, methodology, and metrics that will enable stakeholders to consistently, coherently and comprehensively define, assess, and communicate their concepts of important environmental attributes and potential environmental impacts.

The project developed a river function framework that includes seven categories (biota, water quality, geomorphology, connectivity, water quantity and landscape) of environmental metrics. The project is also developing a set of guidelines including a series of science-based questions that can potentially be used during hydropower licensing to determine what information is needed and which studies may be appropriate to determine potential project effects. This decision support tool can be used for relicensing existing projects, adding power at non-power dams, and adding power in new stream reaches.

The catalog database and an accompanying description are now available for download.

The database contains more than 3,000 metrics extracted from 117 documents related to 285 locations worldwide. The goal of compiling metrics is to catalog the universe of metrics that exist. This aids in understanding how metrics are used differently across the country and across different types of hydropower projects.