Socioeconomic assessment methodology for obstacles on rivers

Development of a national methodology for assessing the environmental, economic and social impacts of obstacles on rivers.

Only 33% of the Latvian inland waters are of good or high ecological quality, and various dams and obstacles on rivers, which negatively affect fish resources and water continuity, are one of the reasons for the deteriorated water quality and fish resources. In order to justify the most appropriate solutions for mitigating the negative impact of obstacles, it is necessary to perform an analysis of benefits and costs, evaluating the environmental, social and economic impacts of obstacles. To develop the national methodology for such assessment, the project financed by the Latvian Fish Fund was implemented titled “Development of methodology for the assessment of environmental, social and economic impacts of river obstacles” (No. 23-00-S0ZF01-000012). The project was implemented by the Institute of Food safety, Animal Health and Environment “BIOR” in cooperation with “Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre” (LEGMC). The development of the methodology was carried out by AKTiiVS based on a contract with “BIOR”.

Funded by: Latvian Fish Fund.

Project number: 23-00-S0ZF01-000012.

Project implementation time: 04.2023-11.2023.

The developed methodology aims to provide data-based assessments of benefits and losses to society from obstacles on rivers. The methodology includes a detailed description of assessment tasks, steps and important methodological aspects, assessment methods for individual impacts, data types and sources. The methodology covers the most significant types of impacts of obstacles on rivers:

  • societal benefits and costs from economic activity related to the use of dams (small hydroelectric power plants, aquaculture, industrial fishing related to migratory fish in the Baltic Sea, companies in tourism-serving industries);
  • benefits and losses to society from the use of the waters affected by the dam for recreation (including angling and other water-related recreational activities);
  • socioeconomic impacts related to the impact of dams on the quality of the water ecosystem;
  • other welfare impacts related to the dam and water use (e.g. benefits from value of the dam constructions as a cultural and historical heritage site, benefits from taking water for municipal firefighting purposes, benefits (or losses) from taking water for watering gardens, benefits from the road over the dam, damage costs due to increased erosion of river banks and increased risk of flooding, public costs for maintenance of dam-related technical infrastructure).

The methodology was tested in two pilot sites – in connection with the Aģes mill HPP dam on the Aģe river and the Bēnes mill HPP dam on the Auce river. During the development of the methodology, consultations were carried out with stakeholders, organizing expert discussions (meetings in September and October 2023) to discuss the results of the methodology development.

Pilot sites for testing the methodology. © Photo: A.Tropa. Aģes mill HPP dam on the Aģe river (left) and K. Abersons. Bēnes mill HPP dam on the Auce river (right).

The expert meetings for discussing the methodology with stakeholders. © Photo: LEGMC.

The results of the work also include recommendations for the necessary further work. It includes monetary valuation studies with data collection and additions to the existing methodology, including testing it in additional pilot sites to cover the diversity of possible socioeconomic situations of obstacles. An important future work, which is not covered by the current methodology, is the development of a methodology for the evaluation of the impacts of possible mitigation or prevention measures (for their cost-benefit analysis). Including taking into account the costs of implementing such measures. Proper and justified impact assessment of possible measures is important in order to choose for individual obstacles the most optimal solution from the society’s perspective.

The results are summarised in a report, which is available (in Latvian) here.

Reference: Pakalniete K., Fībiga L., Abersons K., Ustups D., Jēkabsone J., Čakare M., Aršauska I., Karkovska I. (2023) Metodikas izstrāde upju aizsprostu vides, sociālo un ekonomisko ietekmju novērtēšanai. Latvijas Zivju fonda finansēta projekta Nr. 23-00-S0ZF01-000012 atskaite. Rīga, 105 lpp.

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