Restoring connectivity to Romania’s Mureș watershed by building capacity for dam removal

Identifying dams for removal and demonstrating the approaches required for dam removal in Romania.

Introduction

With its source in the Eastern Carpathian Mountains, the Mures River is Romania’s longest river at 789km, and with more than 500 tributaries, the watershed spans over 28,000 km2. Providing valuable ecosystem services to more than two million people, the Mures river runs through Alpine and Pannonian biomes and links the Carpathians to the Danube River via the Tisza.

The Mures Watershed includes incredible levels of biological and cultural diversity, yet, the biodiversity of this valuable ecosystem continues to be threatened by existing dams and water management approaches that reduce ecological connectivity and ecosystem resilience. Currently, 100s of functional and obsolete dams are documented within the Mures watershed, with many more private/illegal dams not documented. The opportunity for impactful ecosystem restoration across 100s of kilometres is achievable by strategically removing selected dams.

Restoring connectivity within the watershed will support the recovery of endangered species such as the European eel, Danube salmon, Sterlet, and European mink and build resilient ecosystems and communities that rely on freshwater ecosystem services.

At a glance

CountryRomania
RiverMures
Key speciesAnguilla anguilla, Salmo trutta, Thymallus thymallus, Hucho hucho, Lutra lutra, Cobitis taenia, Gobio kessleri, Misgurnus fossilis, Sabanejewia aurata, Zingel zingel, Acipenser ruthenus
Project typeBarrier identification and prioritisation
Project statusLive
Project websitewww.fauna.flora.org/

Project context and opportunity

There is a lack of awareness of the benefits of dam removal amongst stakeholders, with some stakeholders preferring the status quo of removing obsolete dams. However, there is an existing awareness of the value of ecological restoration and the benefits that biodiversity provides. Stakeholders are now wanting support to build capacity for ecological restoration.

This project builds on years of working with local communities and stakeholders to secure and restore ecological connectivity in Romania’s Southwestern Carpathians. Proposed activities will provide the groundwork necessary for the wider roll-out of dam removal within the broader geographic region.

Within the Mures watershed, there are operational and non-operational dams identified by the water administration as suitable for removal. Enabling authorities to prioritise dams for removal based on the highest ecological value and potential for a successful removal will allow the setting of feasible small dam removal targets within the subsequent 12-month period. Working in partnership with local communities and water management authorities to identify dams for removal will demonstrate the approaches required for dam removal in Romania.

Project aims

The long-term goal of restoring connectivity to the Mures Watershed will be realised by working in partnership to assess the longitudinal connectivity of the Mures and to identify dams for removal. The first steps will be to build the authorities’ capacity for dam removal and to complete the inventory of dams within the Mures Watershed. Working with authorities, the project team will develop a framework to support dam removal, providing clarity to stakeholders on the processes required to remove dams.

The team will also create a steering committee to provide technical direction for dam removal and long-term guidance for authorities and local communities. Field surveys will identify dams not administered by authorities and provide data on the functionality of dams.

Partners

Fauna & Flora International