Future Hydropower Reservoirs and Dams

The Future Hydropower Reservoirs and Dams Database (FHReD) has been initiated in the frame of the EMJD Programme SMART — Science for Management of Rivers and Their Tidal Systems aiming at providing geographically explicit information on the new hydropower boom which emanates from climate mitigation efforts.

The latest version of FHReD is a beta version as published in Zarfl et al. 2015. This version is for test purposes only. The database has been undergoing continuous corrections and updates. The next version will be complemented with additional information on reservoir size and published by summer 2019. The beta version contains 3,700 records of hydropower dams with a capacity of > 1 MW. Data was collected from numerous sources, peer-reviewed literature, publicly available databases and contributions from non-governmental organizations; FRHeD is managed by the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen. Subscribe to GDW updates to receive news on FHReD. Access the data from our directory page.


Zarfl, C., A.E. Lumsdon, J. Berlekamp, L. Tydecks, and K. Tockner. 2015. A global boom in hydropower dam construction. Aquatic Sciences 77 (1): 161–170.

Selected Publications:

FRHeD has been and is used to investigate scenarios on potential impacts of hydropower dam construction on a global scale. As such, FRHeD is primarily applied in combination with GRanD. It also has been of use for research institutions and organizations outside the institutions involved in setting up the database. The following publications showcase how FHReD can be used to simulate potential impacts of hydropower dams to be constructed in the future.

Latest publications

Balancing hydropower and biodiversity in the Amazon, Congo, and Mekong

Winemiller et al. 2016

The world’s most biodiverse river basins—the Amazon, Congo, and Mekong—are experiencing an unprecedented boom in construction of hydropower dams. These projects address important energy needs, but advocates often overestimate economic benefits and underestimate far-reaching effects on biodiversity and critically important fisheries. Powerful new analytical tools and high-resolution environmental data can clarify trade-offs between engineering and environmental goals and can enable governments and funding institutions to compare alternative sites for dam building.

Available at Science.

Projections of historical and 21st century fluvial sediment delivery to the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna, Mahanadi, and Volta deltas

Dunn et al. 2018

Regular sediment inputs are required for deltas to maintain their surface elevation relative to sea level, which is important for avoiding salinization, erosion, and flooding. However, fluvial sediment inputs to deltas are being threatened by changes in upstream catchments due to climate and land use change and, particularly, reservoir construction. In this research, the global hydrogeomorphic model WBMsed is used to project and contrast ‘pristine’ (no anthropogenic impacts) and ‘recent’ historical fluvial sediment delivery to the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna, Mahanadi, and Volta deltas.

Available at Science of the Total Environment.

Global phosphorus retention by river damming

Maavara et al. 2015

Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for life. Humans have massively altered the global phosphorus cycle by increasing loading to river systems through fertilizer use, soil erosion, and wastewater discharges. River damming interacts with anthropogenic phosphorus enrichment by trapping a fraction of the phosphorus in reservoir sediments. We estimate that in 2000, 12% of the global river phosphorus load was retained in dam reservoirs. This fraction could increase to 17% by 2030, because of the construction of over 3,700 new dams.

Available at PNAS.

Contributing Institutions

Including the University of Tübingen, IGB Berlin, and USF Osnabrück collaborated in the development of the FHReD database. It should be noted that these dam collections, in turn, used underlying information from a much wider range of sources, including a variety of regional and national inventories, reports, newspaper articles, publications, monographs and maps.