Recent years have seen a significant expansion in high head run-of-river hydropower developments in Wales, raising concerns about the potential impacts of these schemes on the habitats and geomorphology of Welsh rivers. In response, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and the RRC are conducting a project to investigate the current level of understanding of the impacts, and the potential ways to monitor schemes in order to strengthen the evidence base. This should then feed into best practice guidance and design enabling us to minimise the geomorphological impact of hydropower developments.
To this end, RRC and NRW organised an expert workshop in early March with two main aims; 1) to discuss the current evidence base and potential gaps in understanding, and 2) to identify and prioritise potential future monitoring and research methods to increase the evidence base. An excellent turnout of 32 delegates representing 21 organisations, including agencies, consultancies, research organisations and hydropower developers, attended and participated in a mixture of presentations and discussion groups.
The workshop was a great success with a number of really useful conversations had. It was particularly good to have such a mix of organisations to discuss the topic from a number of different perspectives and backgrounds.
A key concern picked up during the day was that the cumulative geomorphological impact of these small hydropower schemes may be significant; however, as yet this has been the subject of limited research. This is an issue which is perhaps best addressed through a large scale research project.
Delegates also suggested the use of a risk based approach towards monitoring Welsh hydropower. This would assist NRW in prioritising what impacts to focus their limited monitoring resources on, based on our level of understanding and the potential risk of this impact.
Thanks again to all those who attended, your contributions were really valuable and will feed into the end product of this project.
Click here for another blog post on the event written by David Mould, JBA Consulting.
Image Credit: Natural Resources Wales