Our approach

We provide financial support to projects that maximise the potential for restoring endangered rivers across Europe.

Our solution

One cost-effective and swift solution to enhance river continuity and consequently promote the flow of biota (plants and animals) and sediment is dam removal. This river restoration measure can improve water quality, habitat connectivity, and resilience. And with over one million barriers in European rivers, prioritising dam removal is essential. That is why the programme’s primary focus is eliminating as many obsolete dams as possible from European rivers. To achieve this, the programme supports:

  1. The demolition of small dams in rivers.
  2. Essential pre-demolition work that facilitates small dam removal.
  3. Advocating the dam removal movement to encourage broader acceptance and implementation of dam removal across Europe.

The overarching goal is biodiversity restoration, and our strategies are centred on maximising the potential to achieve this objective. Our approach considers supporting projects that:

  • Maximise the potential for ecological gain.
  • Are highly viable and can be implemented over short timescales. For example, it is estimated that over 100,000 barriers in Europe have been left abandoned and are not in use. These barriers are likely to be the most socially acceptable to remove.
  • Offer value for money: it is estimated that 68% of barriers in Europe are less than two metres in height and it is primarily the small culverts, fords and weirs that cause the most fragmentation, not the smaller number of large dams. Fortunately, the small barriers are also the cheapest to remove. The programme focuses on small barrier removal as a cost-effective method of restoring rivers.
  • Removals in areas of comparatively low fragmentation: it will usually be more costly to achieve ecological restoration in highly fragmented areas.

What we’re doing

Our programme awards grants to support projects aimed at small dam removal to restore river flow and biodiversity. Our grants are designed to:

Facilitate the removal of small dams in catchments that offer the highest potential for river restoration and ecosystem recovery.

Support pre-demolition work in catchments, including project development, feasibility studies, technical design provision, and securing permissions and permits for dam removal.

Offer various interventions to prepare small dam removal projects with high ecological potential for third-party removal.

Further enable the European dam removal movement and encourage wider acceptance and implementation of dam removal practices.

In addition to our grant-making activities, our programme also undertakes the following initiatives:

  1. Sharing knowledge and evidence of best practices to demonstrate the benefits of dam removal and inspire others to support it.
  2. Promoting dam removal as an important mechanism for river restoration.
  3. Convening key stakeholders and ensuring that the programme’s strategy aligns with similar initiatives dedicated to river restoration in Europe.