The FutureDAMS research and capacity development partnership unites academics, practitioners and policy makers to improve the planning and governance of dams.

The project aims to co-develop, with institutional and case-study partners, an approach and toolset to help design and plan better human interventions in complex human-engineered natural resource systems, with a focus on developing countries. Dams and systems of dams are conceptualised and assessed as water-energy-food-ecology system interventions that must deliver economic, social and environmental benefits and resilience under a range of plausible futures.

Inter- and cross-disciplinary research assessments will identify what has worked well historically and what needs improvement. A new framework for dam system decision-making will seek to enable the effective negotiated design of these complex systems. The proposed approach will use innovative and appropriate climate and hydrological science, engineering, economic, governance, political-science and social analytical methods to assist in the development of water-energy-food-ecology interventions that have high social and economic value.

A state-of-the art model-based multi-criteria assessment and optimization of alternative water-energy infrastructure system designs will be delivered as part of the project. Factors to be explored include hydropower dam locations, size, operations, and their link to wider regional energy, food production, economic, ecological, political and social systems. An online analytical and training toolbox will allow collaborative working between diverse groups such as local and regional stakeholder and sectoral groups, investors, planners, consultants and academics.

The dams decision-making framework and analytical toolset will be developed in partnership with key stakeholders in Myanmar, the West Africa Volta basin, and the East African Nile river basin.


Key research questions for the project are:

1. What’s happening now? Who is selecting, designing, and financing dams and systems of dams today; what approaches and tools do they use; and what shapes and incentivises decisions about dam selection and operation?


2. What should be improved? What technical and political knowledge is required so that new dams can be selected and designed to maximise and appropriately allocate benefits, promote resilient and sustainable development, and minimise conflict and socio-ecological loss; what decision processes need improving; and, should a wider set of stakeholders be invited into the decision process?


3. How? What skills, approaches, processes, tools and academic/professional networks would help create a new generation of engineers, applied social scientists and policy analysts in the UK, in cases study countries and in other countries to achieve our mission?

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