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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.


Facts & figures guide to understand the current situation of our rivers, real examples of the benefits of unlocking their potential, and practical steps to work together


CHECK OUT on the link below this at-a-glance visual publication !

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Latest News

New report! The potential of barrier removal to reconnect Europe’s rivers

European 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!

Check out the story here

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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?


Let's unlock them!


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! 


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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.

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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 

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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.

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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...
The old dry and eroded landscape downstream from the old dam soon becomes a lush and healthy ecosystem full of wildlife which can adapt and fight climate change and become a new quality environment for all, including humans!

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© Implicate.org, based on Amber International's chart


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!



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Download it in full size and share it with everyone!

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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

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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