Water infrastructure, such as dams and levees, provide important benefits to society, but they also fragment and alter aquatic ecosystems. Today, two-thirds of the world’s major rivers are interrupted by dams and, due to rising populations and living standards, water infrastructure is undergoing rapid expansion. For example, nearly 950 new dams are planned or under construction in South America; in China, there are nearly 50 in the Yangtze River basin alone.
The Nature Conservancy works with water managers, scientists and other partners to develop solutions for maintaining and restoring the health of aquatic ecosystems affected by water infrastructure. Through the Sustainable Rivers Project, the Conservancy is collaborating with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to improve the health of rivers affected by Corps dams. Through a strategy called Hydropower by Design, we are developing tools and approaches to influence the siting and operation of dams to improve the sustainability of new infrastructure.