Latest On The Conservation Gateway

A well-managed and operational Conservation Gateway is in our future! Marketing, Conservation, and Science have partnered on a plan to rebuild the Gateway into the organization’s enterprise content management system (AEM), with a planned launch of a minimal viable product in late 2024. If you’re interested in learning more about the project, reach out to for more info!


Practitioner Updates on the Ecological Limits of Hydrologic Alteration
September 23, 2010
1.  Global review of environmental flow policies released
 A new report by WWF and TNC takes stock of international progress toward achieving effective environmental flow policies and conveys the emerging lessons, illustrated by stories from around the world.  The report presents a brief synopsis of environmental flow policies around the world, describes the three major challenges to implementing those policies, and offers nine guidelines for overcoming the obstacles and moving forward to full implementation.  The report, Le Quesne, T., Kendy, E., and Weston, D. 2010. The implementation challenge:  Taking stock of government policies to protect and restore environmental flows. WWF and The Nature Conservancy, will be accessible he​re next week.
2.  Michigan’s Water Withdrawal Assessment Program wins 3 national awards
The world’s first “ELOHA”, implemented as the Michigan Water Withdrawal Assessment Program, has received three national awards: 
•         Council of State Governments:  2009 Innovations Award 
•         Environmental Council of States:  2010 Innovative State Program 
•         Renewable Natural Resources Foundation:  2010 Outstanding Achievement Award
The program is designed to protect Michigan's water resources from excessive withdrawals. To avoid a burdensome permitting process, a Web-based screening tool was developed to estimate the impact of withdrawing water from groundwater or surface water on freshwater ecosystem health. The program became fully implemented in July.  The vast majority of users have been able to simply register their use and proceed with their projects, while those that have been referred for specific site review were successfully identified as situations where the project posed a risk to the ecosystem or the withdrawal was potentially too large relative to the available water supply.  In those cases in which the screening too identified a risk, the Department of Environmental Quality worked with the applicant to modify the proposal to avoid the risk and allow the project to move forward. For more information, contact Dave Hamilton.
3.  ELOHA propagating through the Great Lakes basin
Following on the heels of Michigan’s success, ELOHA is framing statewide water management reforms to meet provisions of the Great Lakes Compact in the other basin states.  In Pennsylvania, the U.S. Geological Survey is developing a hydrologic foundation of daily streamflows for 1962-2008 for both gaged and ungaged sites, applying the Sustainable Yield Estimator originally developed for Massachusetts.  In Minnesota and New York, ELOHA kick-off meetings this fall will launch new collaborations to establish scientific standards for environmental flows in those states. In Ohio, the ELOHA-inspired Ohio Stream Withdrawal Evaluation Tool (OSWET) informed 4 months of stakeholder negotiation over regulatory language and permitting thresholds; agreement has been reached for large, modified streams, while standards for small, sensitive streams may have to be decided by the legislature this fall.  For more information on the Great Lakes basin, contact Rich Bowman.
4.  ELOHA successfully applied in sparse data contexts
Lacking extensive databases to relate flow alteration to ecological response, scientists in the Potomac and Susquehanna River basins (USA) are nonetheless formulating environmental flow recommendations for different river types based on literature review and expert consensus.  Within approximately eighteen months, Susquehanna basin scientists developed recommendations for high, seasonal, and low flows for five freshwater habitat types based on published literature, existing studies, hydrologic analyses, and expert consultation; their final report is currently undergoing peer review.  Potomac River scientists are not far behind, with an expert workshop for tributaries to the middle Potomac scheduled for next spring.  Connecticut (see 5, below), is also adopting presumptive environmental flow standards based on best professional judgment until such time as scientific data are available to warrant their revision.
5.  Connecticut environmental flow regulations poised for adoption
Culminating 4 years of negotiation, the final regulations for streamflow protection in Connecticut (USA) have been released, with only one more legislative hurdle to clear before finalization.  The innovative flow standards protect aquatic community structure and function by regulating groundwater and surface-water withdrawals and reservoir operations according to the time of year and a river’s ecological condition class.
6.  Carolinas setting the stage for ELOHA
South Carolina (USA) recently passed a law regulating water withdrawals for instream flow -- a major accomplishment for a state that traditionally resists comprehensive environmental legislation.  Meanwhile, its neighbor, North Carolina, recently ratified a bill that requires the development of hydrologic models – the basis for ELOHA’s hydrologic foundation -- for each of the state’s 17 major river basins.
7.  Colombian Ministry of Environment launches Magdalena-Cauca River basin ELOHA
A team of interdisciplinary scientists from Javeriana University, Colombia, recently began compiling available hydrological, ecological, and socioeconomic information and formulating flow-ecology hypotheses to support environmental flow recommendations for the mainstem rivers and tributaries of the rapidly developing Magdalena-Cauca River Basin, which drains most of Colombia and is one of the most biologically diverse areas in the world.  This initiative, which represents the first application of ELOHA in Colombia, is supported and funded by the Ministry of Environment and coordinated by The Nature Conservancy. 
8.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awards grant to advance ELOHA science
Researchers from U.S. Geological Survey, University of Washington, University of Massachusetts, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service won a $200,000 Climate Change Adaptation Science grant to use dynamic linear modeling to characterize hydrologic regimes and detect flow modifications at multiple scales, thereby bridging the gap between very broad-scale, empirical models with large uncertainty and fine-scale, mechanistic models that are too detailed to apply to large landscapes. For more information, contact Julian Olden​.
9.  Hydrogeomorphic classification of Washington State rivers completed
Hydrogeomorphic classification of Washington (USA) rivers has been completed and is currently under review.  The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries funded University of Washington researchers to carry out this step of ELOHA to support the development of regional environmental flow standards for Washington.
10.  Upper Colorado River basin ELOHA expanded from pilot study
Colorado’s ELOHA-based Watershed Flow Evaluation Tool (WFET)​ is expanding from the Roaring Fork Watershed WFET Pilot to the entire mainstem Colorado River basin within the state of Colorado (USA).  The final product is expected near the end of the year.  Once completed, stakeholders will use the tool to assess effects of existing and possible future water management scenarios on fish and riparian habitats.  The WFET is also being developed in the Yampa and White River basins, to be applied in a similar manner.  The Yampa/White effort should be completed by spring/summer 2011.  Both projects are funded by the Colorado Water Conservation Board through the 2005 Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act. 
11. Environmental flow policy implementation steps posted online
Reforming water policy to protect and restore environmental flows requires more than “just” ELOHA. In January 2010, environmental flow project managers from Mexico and the US produced a 2-page checklist outlining the steps that have been vital to their successes. Go to the Implementation Phases document.   COMING SOON:  A survey based on these implementation steps to help track global progress in environmental flow policy advances, and to identify recurring challenges that need further attention to overcome.  Watch for it in your email.  For further information or to participate in the survey, contact Eloise Kendy.
12.  Special issue of Freshwater Biology pushes environmental flow boundaries
The entire January 2010 Special Issue of Freshwater Biology​ is available for free download.  The special issue presents new analytical and modeling approaches to support the development of environmental flow standards at multiple spatial scales in any economic and societal setting. Articles describe ELOHA, ecological trait analysis, Bayesian hierarchical modeling, Bayesian decision networks, Integrated Basin Flow Assessment, and more.
13.  Special issue of Water Alternatives revisits the large dam controversy
The entire June 2010 Special Issue of Water Alternatives is available for free download.  The World Commission on Dams (WCD) was an experiment in multi-stakeholder dialogue and global governance that was fraught with conflict and controversy. The WCD Report, Dams and Development: A New Framework for Decision-Making, was published in 2000, buoying hopes that broad-based agreements would be forged on how to better manage water and energy development. Ten years later, this special issue of Water Alternatives revisits the WCD and its impacts.
14.  Experts explain ELOHA Down Under
In recent interviews​, Angela Arthington, Mark Kennard, and Ben Stewart-Koster explain how ELOHA enables Australian water resource managers to set scientifically based, socially acceptable, and testable standards for environmental flows.
15.   Texas Environmental Flow Rulemaking website launched
A new Texas Commission on Environmental Quality website disseminates information related to the TCEQ's environmental flow rulemaking process as required by Texas Water Code §11.1470.  This law requires TCEQ to (1) adopt by rule appropriate environmental flow standards for each river basin and bay system in the state to “support a sound ecological environment, to the maximum extent reasonable considering other public interests and other relevant factors; (2) establish an amount of unappropriated water, if available, to be set aside to satisfy the environmental flow standards to the maximum extent reasonable when considering human water needs; and (3) establish procedures for implementing an adjustment of the conditions included in a permit or an amended water right.

16.  Southeastern US instream flow workshop on track for December 1-2
Last year’s workshop culminated with the Southern Instream Flow Research Agenda, a call for universities and government agencies to compile the information needed to apply ELOHA within the 15 states that comprise the Southern Instream Flow Network (SIFN).  During 2010, researchers have significantly advanced three of the Agenda objectives: (1) Develop a regional river classification system; (2) Identify commonalities in ecosystem responses to flow alteration; and (3) Compile regional aquatic ecology data. The upcoming workshop on the Gulf Shores of Alabama will examine progress to date on the research agenda and determine next steps.  For information, contact Marilyn O’Leary

17.   Environmental flow training videos posted online
Recordings of The Nature Conservancy’s half-day training course presented at the FLOW2008 conference in San Antonio, Texas, are now available on  The list of sessions​ – including a brief overview of the ELOHA framework and some innovative applications of the Indicators of Hydrologic Alteration (IHA) to support environmental flow policy development – is attached to this newsletter.
18.  New publications
Acreman, M. C., and Ferguson, J. D. 2010. Environmental flows and the European Water Framework Directive.  Freshwater Biology 55(1):32-48. [abstract]

Armanini, D. G., Horrigan, N., Monk, W. A., Peters, D. L., and Baird, D. J. 2010. Development of a benthic macroinvertebrate flow sensitivity index for Canadian rivers.  River Research and Applications Published online 7 May 2010(DOI: 10.1002/rra.1389).

Baker, M. E., and King, R. S. 2010. A new method for detecting and interpreting biodiversity and ecological community thresholds.  Methods in ecology and evolution 1(1):25-37.

Beechie, T. J., Sear, D. A., Olden, J. D., Pess, G. R., Buffington, J. M., Moir, H., Roni, P., and Pollock, M. M. 2010. Process- based principles for restoring river ecosystems.  Bioscience 60(209-222).

Blackhurst, M., Hendrickson, C., and Sels i Vidal, J. 2010. Direct and indirect water withdrawals for U.S. industrial sectors. Environmental Science and Technology 44(6):2126-2130.

Carlisle, D. M., Falcone, J., Wolock, D. W., Meador, M. R., and Norris, R. H. 2010. Predicting the natural flow regime: models for assessing hydrological alteration in streams.  River Research and Applications 26(2):118-136.

Esselman, P. C., and Opperman, J. J. 2010. Overcoming information limitations for the prescription of an environmental flow regime for a Central American river.  Ecology and Society 15(1):6 (online).

Fitzhugh, T. W., and Vogel, R. M. 2010. The impact of dams on flood flows in the United States.  River Research and Applications (DOI: 10.1002/rra.1417).

Foster, S. S. D., and Perry, C. J. 2010. Improving groundwater resource accounting in irrigated areas: a prerequisite for promoting sustainable use.  Hydrogeology Journal 18:291-294.

Kanno, Y., and Vokoun, J. C. 2010. Evaluating effects of water withdrawals and impoundments on fish assemblages in southern New England streams, USA.  Fisheries and Management Ecology 17:272-283.

Kennard, M. J., Pusey, B. J., Olden, J. D., Mackay, S. J., Stein, J. L., and Marsh, N. 2010. Classification of natural flow regimes in Australia to support environmental flow management.  Freshwater Biology 55(1):171-193.

Kennen, J. G., and Riskin, M. L. 2010. Evaluating effects of potential changes in streamflow regime on fish and aquatic-invertebrate assemblages in the New Jersey Pinelands. U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2010-5079, 34 p. [full text]

Kennen, J. G., Riva-Murray, K., and Beaulieu, K. M. 2010. Determining hydrologic factors that influence stream macroinvertebrate assemblages in the northeastern US.  Journal of Ecohydrology, DOI 10.1002/eco.99.

King, A. J., Ward, K. A., O'Connor, P., Green, D., Tonkin, Z., and Mahoney, J. 2010. Adaptive management of an environmental watering event to enhance native fish spawning and recruitment.  Freshwater Biology 55:17-31.

King, J., and Brown, C. 2010. Integrated basin flow assessments; concepts and method development in Africa and South-east Asia.  Freshwater Biology 55(1):127-146.

Konrad, C.P., 2009, Simulating the recovery of suspended sediment transport and river bed stability in response to dam removal on the Elwha River, Washington, Ecological Engineering, 35, 1104-1115, doi:10.1016/j.ecoleng.2009.03.018.

Konrad, C. P. 2010. Monitoring and evaluation of environmental flow prescriptions for five demonstration sites of the Sustainable Rivers Project. U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2010-1065, 22 p. [full text]

Larned, S.T., J. Schmidt, T. Datry, C.P. Konrad, J. K. Dumas, J. C. Diettrich, 2010, Longitudinal river ecohydrology: flow variation down the lengths of alluvial rivers, Ecohydrology, 10.1002/eco.126.

Le Quesne, T., Kendy, E., and Weston, D. 2010. The implementation challenge:  Taking stock of government policies to protect and restore environmental flows. WWF and The Nature Conservancy. [full text]

Le Quesne, T., Matthews, J. H., Von der Heyden, C., Wickel, A. J., Wilby, R., Hartmann, J., Pegram, G., Kistin, E., Blate, G., de Freitas, G. K., Levine, E., Guthrie, C., and McSweeney, C. 2010. Flowing forward: freshwater ecosystem adaptation to climate change in water resources management and biodiversity conservation. The World Bank, Washington, DC, 71 p. 

Maret, T., C. Konrad, and A. Trammer, 2010, Influence of environmental factors on biotic responses to nutrient enrichment in agricultural streams, American Water Resources Association, DOI : 10.1111/j.1752-1688.2010.00430.x

Merritt, D. M., and Poff, N. L. 2010. Shifting dominance of riparian Populus and Tamarix along gradients of flow alteration in western North American rivers.  Ecological Applications.

Merritt, D. M., Scott, M. L., Poff, N. L., Auble, G. T., and Lytle, D. A. 2010. Theory, methods, and tools for determining environmental flows for riparian vegetation: riparian vegetation-flow response guilds.  Freshwater Biology 55(1):206-225.

Olden, J., and Naiman, R. J. 2010. Incorporating thermal regimes in environmental flows assessments: modifying dam operations to restore freshwater ecosystem integrity.  Freshwater Biology 55(1):86-107.

Opperman, J. J., Luster, R., McKenney, B. A., Roberts, M., and Meadows, A. W. 
2010. Ecologically functional floodplains: connectivity, flow regime, and scale.  Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA) (DOI: 10.1111 ⁄ j.1752-1688.2010.00426.x):1-16.

Pittock, J., and Lankford, B. A. 2010. Environmental water requirements: demand management in an era of water scarcity. Journal of Integrative Environmental Sciences 7:75-93.

Poff, N. L., Richter, B. D., Arthington, A. H., Bunn, S. E., Naiman, R. J., Kendy, E., Acreman, M., Apse, C., Bledsoe, B. P., Freeman, M. C., Henriksen, J., Jacobson, R. B., Kennen, J. G., Merritt, D. M., O'Keeffe, J. H., Olden, J. D., Rogers, K., Tharme, R. E., and Warner, A. 2010. The ecological limits of hydrologic alteration (ELOHA): a new framework for developing regional environmental flow standards.  Freshwater Biology 55:147-170.

Poff, N. L., and Zimmerman, J. K. H. 2010. Ecological responses to altered flow regimes: a literature review to  inform environmental flows science and management.  Freshwater Biology 55(1):194-205.

Postel, S. L. 2010. Water: Adapting to a New Normal. The Post Carbon Reader
Reeves, H. W., Hamilton, D. A., Seelbach, P. W., and Asher, A. J. 2009. Ground-water component of the Michigan Water Withdrawal Screening Tool. U.S. Geological survey Scientific Investigations Report 2009-5003. [full text]​

Richter, B. D., Postel, S., Revenga, C., Scudder, T., Lehner, B., Churchill, A., and Chow, M. 2010. Lost in development's shadow: The downstream human consequences of dams.  Water Alternatives 3(2):14-42. [abstract] [full text]

Shafroth, P. B., Wilcox, A. C., Lytle, D. A., Hickey, J. T., Andersen, D. C., Beauchamp, V. B., Hautzinger, A., McMullen, L. E., and Warner, A. 2010. Ecosystem effects of environmental flows: modelling and experimental floods in a dryland river. Freshwater Biology 55(1):68-85.

Webb, J. A., Stewardson, M. J., and Koster, W. M. 2010. Detecting ecological responses to flow variation using Bayesian hierarchical models.  Freshwater Biology 55(1):108-126.

Zheng, C., Liu, J., Cao, G., Kendy, E., Wang, H., and Jia, Y. 2010. Can China cope with its water crisis? Perspectivies from the North China Plain.  Ground Water 48(3):350-354.

Zimmerman, J. K. H., Nislow, K. H., Letcher, B. H., and Magilligan, F. J. 2009. Determining the effects of dams on subdaily variation in river flows at a whole-basin scale.  River Research and Applications. DOI: 10.1002/rra.1324
19.  ELOHA Toolbox website news
Share your resources with the entire ELOHA community by posting them.  Case studies, references, links, and text additions all are welcome.  We especially encourage postings on environmental flow policy advances from outside the United States.  Send your contributions to Eloise Kendy​.  The site is usefully organized according to the main steps of ELOHA, with cited references linked to a comprehensive bibliography.  Case studies from around the world are being tracked, with your help.   Thank you to all contributors, past and future.

Eloise Kendy, Ph.D.
Director, Environmental Flows Program
The Nature Conservancy
Global Freshwater Team
415 Monroe Avenue
Helena, MT 59601
Tel: +1 406 495 9910