It's been too long fracturing them, slowing their flow, altering their course, messing with their wildlife, isolating them from people. We have choked Europe's rivers under more than a million dams. It's time to let them breathe free and in harmony with us again. It's time to unlock.
New report! The potential of barrier removal to reconnect Europe’s riversEuropean rivers are the most fragmented in the world, leading to the loss of critical biodiversity, and driving fish and other freshwater species towards extinction. Check our report to see the big picture, and how dam removal can contribute to recover the health of rivers across the continent.
We reviewed 3% of the existing obstacles and identified that by removing just 7,360 of them in the EU. nearly 50,000 km of rivers could be made free –twice as much as the objective of the EU's 2030 Biodiversity strategy. The need and opportunity for river recovery is huge!
Help us remove needless dams!
Would you like to participate on our Dam Removal Crowdfunding Action, our rivers have been choked for a very long time, don’t you think it's time to set them free?
Good news for rivers! WWF Slovakia removes a dam
Actions, not words! This is what the latest dam removal powered by donors from all over Europe seems to shout out loud. Slovakia got rid of the largest dam in the 30 km of the unspoilt Hucava river thanks to the participation of citizens on a flash crowdfunding action last December. Thanks to everyone who helped through the FreetheRiverToday.com platform we can say bye bye to this awful useless barrier and hello to a new free flowing river!READ THE STORY HERE
What’s wrong with dams?
A dam, big or small, always means an abrupt dead end sign for a river. It alters everything, from the natural flow of water and fish to a long list of damages that are less visible but equally harmful, like the cultural identity and heritage of the surrounding communitties. Most of the existing obstacles have no use today, they are nothing more than abandoned cement.See More
How dammed is Europe?
There is no comprehensive study yet on the total number of dams in Europe, but it is estimated that there is almost one barrier for each river kilometer in Europe. Existing inventories record 630,000 barriers in Europe. However, by walking 1,000 km of rivers, scientists have estimated 1 million barriers exist all over the region. Over 100.000 currently serve no purpose at all.
Check AMBER’s Europe Barrier Atlas
Death by a thousand cuts
From the at least 1 million barriers in Europe, two thirds are small structures which sometimes can be worse than a large one as, together, they have an enormous negative impact in connectivity.See More
What happens when we remove a dam?
The river has an outstanding capacity to recover once we let it run free. Nothing can restore rivers as effectively as dam removals. It’s a quick action. A one-time investment followed by a lifetime of benefits that can be witnessed almost immediately.
- Water recovers its natural rhythm of flowing
- The river gradually recovers its natural shape
- Sediment flows downstream.
- Water recovers it's quality levels.
- Riverside plants and trees start to conquer the long lost space.
- Fish come back.
- Land animals and birds follow shortly behind, populating the forest...
KNOW YOUR DAMS
Did KNOW YOUR DAMS you know that not all river obstacles are super high, large and slightly curved? Some of them are small and you may pass near them every day. Check them out how many you can spot!
DO YOU LIKE OUR FREE FLOWING RIVER?
Download it in full size and share it with everyone!Download
Dams and River restoration policy in Europe
With the review of the EU countries’River Basin Management Plans coming up, the member states should include dam removal as one of the main tools to contribute to the objectives of the Water Framework Directive, which expects all water bodies across Europe to achieve ‘good’ ecological status latest by 2027. Dam removal is also a key measure to implement EU's 2030 Biodiversity Strategy, which aims to restore 25,000 km of rivers in Europe to a free flowing state. The effort will help achieve the ambitious Green Deal goals, and lead Europe through a green economy and biodiversity recovery path.
Collecting info on barriers
There's an urgent need to map small barriers at country level. Although it's the large dams that draw most of the attention, the minor obstacles are far from trivial and their collective consequences can some times be greater. Local databases should concentrate not only on their location, type and size, but also on their use, as well as their physical and legal status.
WWF and dam removal
WWF takes the mission of restoring rivers very seriously and is working intensely together with its European network of country offices, and other partners through the Dam Removal Europe coalition. The goal is to remove all dams that no longer have a purpose, and are still harming the river. At WWF we are committed to raising the voice to alert national governments and EU Commission of the importance of getting rid of all this river rubbish to restore freshwater connectivity and nature’s functions all across the continent.
LIVING EUROPEAN RIVERS
AND DAM REMOVAL EUROPE
The Living European Rivers Initiative is a joint WWF European effort to bring life back to Europe’s waters for the benefit of people and nature. Involving other civil society organizations, governments, investors, businesses and communities, the initiative aims to protect rivers, lakes and wetlands that are still in good health and restore the ones that have been degraded. To achieve this ambitious goal by 2030, the initiative works to improve water governance, redirect hydropower, and raise awareness about the values of freshwater ecosystems.
WWF is part of the Dam Removal Europe Coalition, working together with other international NGOs to restore rivers in Europe that have high natural or cultural importance by removing obsolete barriers and ensure healthy free-flowing rivers.
DAM REMOVAL EUROPE
A brand new visual factsheet from WWF to help understand the current situation, challenges and steps to eliminate thousands of unneccesary barriers across the continent
Dam Removal: a growing trend to fix Europe´s rivers