The Open Rivers Programme is a grant-giving organisation created to restore European rivers that have become fragmented due to the proliferation of dams.
The programme offers grants to support projects that lead to the removal of small dams and the restoration of river flow and biodiversity.
To restore endangered European rivers by supporting interventions that lead to the removal of small dams and the restoration of river flow and biodiversity.
To create free-flowing rivers with healthy, diverse and connected ecosystems across Europe, which are enjoyed, valued, and protected by the communities that depend on them.
Find out more about the projects we are supporting and the impacts we are making.
The following core principles inform the programme’s approach:
The fragmentation of rivers has resulted in a significant deterioration of biodiversity, water quality and natural habitats.
We support projects that maximise the potential for restoring endangered rivers across Europe.
By 2027, the Programme will have enabled many thousands of km of rivers to flow freely again. Where we intervene, we will help to restore natural habitats and enable river ecosystems to be more resilient to changes in climate.
The creation of the Open Rivers Programme was informed by two years of research and stakeholder engagement, which revealed that around one million dams are fragmenting European rivers and that there is much potential and need for dam removal. The research concluded that barriers contribute to the significant decline of biodiversity and that removing them can quickly restore river flow and biodiversity. It also concluded that there is a genuine lack of understanding of the benefits of dam removal and only a handful of organisations promoting and funding it at the European level.
In recognition of the scale of the problem, a significant funding gap and the opportunity, Arcadia enabled the creation of the Open Rivers Programme in the spring of 2021. A new not-for-profit entity (ANBI status), “Stichting European Open Rivers Programme,” was formed in the Netherlands on 25 June 2021 to manage and implement the programme. It will offer grants to remove small dams and restore endangered European rivers.
The Open Rivers Programme officially began operating in October 2021, with funding from Arcadia, a charitable foundation that works to protect nature, preserve cultural heritage and promote open access to knowledge.