SHARE: A Framework for Sharing the Water in a Hydro Reservoir

Hydropower is at the heart of the water-energy-food nexus. Developing hydropower projects that incorporate catchment areas and several purposes must be done equitably and involve internal and external stakeholders. Although benefits can conflict at times, they are also often complementary.

By Emmanuel Branche

Sustainable hydropower development requires attention to a wide range of economic, social and environmental objectives. Energy and water sustainable development depends not only on supply choices, but also on how these choices are implemented. The intent of studying hydropower reservoirs’ multipurpose use and multipurpose water usage is to ensure positive aspects are maximized and negative impacts are avoided, minimized, mitigated or compensated.

After the Sixth World Water Forum in Marseille, France in 2012, Electricité de France (EDF) and the World Water Council (WWC) agreed to work on the framework, “The Multipurpose Water Uses of Hydropower Reservoirs.” This framework bridges the sixth forum in Marseille and the seventh forum in Daegu and Gyeongbuk in the Republic of Korea in April 2015.

The framework addresses how to minimize contradictions and competition among multipurpose water uses of hydro reservoirs and how to set an appropriate governance structure that would allow coordinated and integrated water use management in terms of strategy, planning, decision-making and operation.

The 2,100 MW Aswan hydroelectric facility in Egypt dams the Nile River, which protects the area from floods and droughts. It impounds Lake Nasser that supplies water for agricultural production, creates jobs and aids tourism.
The 2,100 MW Aswan hydroelectric facility in Egypt dams the Nile River, which protects the area from floods and droughts. It impounds Lake Nasser that supplies water for agricultural production, creates jobs and aids tourism.

A major challenge is sharing water amongst competing water users (energy generation, water supply, flood control, drought mitigation, irrigation, environmental services). A consultative and participatory approach involving multi-stakeholders (hydropower developers, banks, other sectors, NGOs, international organizations, etc.) was used.

This research is clear in stating there is no universal solution, but it puts forth that international principles do exist, which could be adapted to national, transboundary river systems and local contexts.


In this research, SHARE includes five value propositions equitable water usage could have within nations and between nations that use transboundary rivers and multipurpose reservoirs. SHARE denotes a construct that provides a framework on which hydropower reservoir multipurpose water usage policies can be built in making reservoir water sustainable and equitably distributed (see Figure 1). The SHARE acronym includes:

S: Sustainability approach for all users

The degree to which multipurpose hydropower reservoirs can advance sustainable development objectives depends on careful planning, construction, operation, management and governance. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions as each project is site specific and as water governance is place-based and context-dependent.

H: Higher efficiency and equity among all sectors

Economic data and innovative financial mechanisms are crucial for equitable and efficient sharing of benefits among water users. A major challenge is that many of the additional benefits around hydropower reservoirs are currently not recognized or monetized.

Many additional purposes of hydropower reservoirs may not be financially motivated in the short-term, but would give more equitable long-term benefits that are not reflected in the financial analysis.

In the developing world, funding and guarantees from bilateral or multilateral development banks are important financing instruments that can provide low-cost financing over long repayment periods, and function as a catalyst for other investors.

A: Adaptability for all solutions

It is essential to provide greater flexibility and adaptability in the way water is allocated among users during the entire lifetime of the reservoir. The multiple dimensions of projects as they emerge over time should be more explicitly addressed in the institutional management and operation arrangements. River flows are vital for healthy ecosystems and their services. The mitigation of reservoir sedimentation should be addressed with a multi-stakeholder approach from the early stages of project planning through to operation.

R: River basin perspectives for all

An integrated approach is essential to reach a holistic view of the river basin. An important over-arching framework for sustainable hydropower reservoir development is Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) and basin development planning. The creation and effective functioning of transboundary river commissions (e.g. the Danube, Rhine, Mekong, Senegal rivers, etc.) with the purpose of enabling information exchange and better transboundary cooperation with water infrastructure development and operation is essential for upstream and downstream countries or those that have the same river as a national border.

River basin organizations need political commitment to address the very sensitive discussions around dam/reservoir projects, should include a broad representation of stakeholders and each organization should be equipped with capacities related to staff, finance, expertise and infrastructure in order to effectively carry out their duties.

E: Engaging all stakeholders

It is necessary to identify all stakeholders likely to influence or be impacted by decisions on the reservoirs and engage them in early stage negotiations on a voluntary basis.

Leadership within the community and across stakeholders is key for success. The quality of data sources and information accessibility vary considerably at the local and state levels; making this information accessible, timely, understandable, usable and useful is the challenge. Strengthening partnerships and mobilizing resources remain essential to achieve effective multipurpose reservoir management.

By using SHARE as the overarching umbrella, employing SHARE sub-categories – Shared – as guiding principles in the development and operation of such multipurpose hydropower reservoirs to reach sustainable water management could be measurable and repeatable across different cultures. Therefore a sustainable development and operation of multipurpose hydropower reservoirs should rely on shared vision, shared resources, shared responsibilities, shared rights and risks, and shared costs and benefits.

These principles and acknowledgement of joint sharing among all the stakeholders is key to successful development and management of multipurpose hydropower reservoirs, and should frame all phases from planning to operation.

Future investments in and operation of hydro projects should embrace SHARE and take a multipurpose approach, where appropriate, together with necessary financing. In the coming decades it is important that there is sustained and steady focus on utilization of multipurpose opportunities for investment and operation, firstly on existing infrastructures in multipurpose hydropower reservoirs that have dams. The way forward for each developer and sponsor is to work out a reasonable decision-making process that meets these objectives, to include a duration that is predictable and compatible with the urgency of need.

Case studies of SHARE value propositions in action

Data from a variety of case studies offers real-world examples of SHARE value propositions in action.

Sustainability via HSAP

The Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol (HSAP) is a tool that promotes and improves the sustainable use of hydropower. It is based on five core values and seven strategic priorities of the 2000 World Commission on Dams report and intensive review from 2008 to 2010 by the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Forum (Forum).

The Forum’s members came from social and environmental NGOs, governments, commercial and development banks and the hydropower sector. Many of these organizations are now represented in the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Council (Council).

This Council includes representatives from social and community organisations, environmental organisations, governments from around the world, banks and investors, and the hydropower sector.

It can be used at any stage of hydropower development, from the very earliest planning stages, right through to operation. It has also been designed to work on projects and facilities anywhere in the world.

Uses for manmade Great Lake in Tasmania, Australia, include hydropower, fishing and tourism.
Uses for manmade Great Lake in Tasmania, Australia, include hydropower, fishing and tourism.

Hydro Tasmania HSAP

Hydro Tasmania has a Water Operations Advisor whose role has direct responsibility to maintain relations with the irrigation sector, in particular in relation to water allocation and sharing issues. Arthurs Lake, in Tasmania, is a secondary irrigation storage for the Lake River irrigation system. The organization considers lakes such as Arthurs Lake and how Hydro Tasmania can improve activities to better reflect evolving environmental and community values through its Water Management Review program.

Hydro Tasmania is presently reviewing this program and seeking to broaden it by introducing elements of international sustainability assessment approaches, such as the HSAP.

To assess the sustainability of hydropower projects at all stages of development, the HSAP comprises five documents – a background document and four assessment tools (Early Stage, Preparation, Implementation and Operation) for the different stages of the project life cycle.

Higher efficiency

The Olmos project in Peru used a public-private partnership model to address its investment challenge. The project consists of three main elements: diversion of water from Huancabamba River in the Atlantic basin to Olmos River in the Pacific basin), including the construction of the Limon Dam and diversion of regulated water through 20 km-long tunnel; development of a new irrigation area of 38,000 hectares, using water transferred by the diversion system; and the construction and operation of two hydropower plants.

This project is under implementation. It should be noted that the first hydropower plant is also registered as a CDM project of the UNFCCC.

For each of the project’s elements, a different approach was applied for making it viable and for distributing correctly the corresponding costs and benefits between public and private sectors.

The concession is a build-own-operate-transfer (BOOT)/public private partnership (PPP) where the government of Peru auctions the land to be irrigated, the proceeds of such sales finance the construction of the irrigation infrastructure, and the private partner develops the necessary works to operate adequate irrigation services. The private partner then manages and charges for irrigation services for 20 years. Peruvian pension funds took part in the financing roundtable and may boost infrastructure investments in Peru.

The concessionaire grants lot purchasers’ individual water license certificates that are transferable among irrigators. This is a real opportunity for increasing the flexibility for water users allowing an optimal use of the water by reallocation of water amongst water users.


Arthurs Lake is also very good example of multipurpose water uses of reservoirs thatinclude hydropower, recreation, a fishery and irrigation.

Irrigation is a new purpose, with the commissioning of the Midlands Water Scheme in August, 2014. Water for the Midlands irrigation district is sourced from Arthurs Lake. Farm Water Access Plans are all in place and will ensure the environmental sustainability of the scheme. Water price and supply in the irrigation district is underpinned by a water supply agreement between Tasmanian Irrigation and Hydro Tasmania.

The agreement recognizes that water taken from Arthurs Lake would have otherwise been used to generate electricity at Hydro Tasmania’s Poatina and Trevallyn hydropower stations.

River basin perspectives

The Cumberland River plays a vital role in support of commerce, energy, recreation, and quality of life for all its stakeholders. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operates a system of eight projects on the Cumberland. These include four tributary storage projects (flood damage reduction and hydropower), three mainstem navigation projects (navigation and hydropower) and one hybrid project (flood damage reduction, navigation, and hydropower). Together, they have the ability to moderate flows to support regional objectives such as flood damage reduction and commercial navigation.

The 2007 Cumberland River Basin Interim Operating Plan is based on the 1994 Drought Contingency Plan. There are system-wide overriding considerations for dam safety and flood damage reduction. During low river flows system-wide priorities are: water supply, water quality, navigation, hydropower and recreation.

Cumberland River projects play a critical role in the regional system, including the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. The Nashville District Water Management has a multidisciplinary staff of engineers and scientists who perform complete system analysis daily. The mission of the Water Management Section is to sustainably manage the natural resources of the Cumberland River and to provide flood risk management, commercial navigation, hydro production, water supply, environmental stewardship and recreational opportunities to the people and businesses of the basin.

In July 2014, the Nashville district went live with the mobile website: Anyone with a smart device and internet access can view real-time water information within the Cumberland River watershed.


The evolution of the water resource and the water demand under climate stress, depending on demographic and socio-economic territories, evolution may require development of adaptation strategies. This is the collective challenge of tomorrow.

In a time of changing needs, EDF is committed alongside its partners to preserving water resources and takes an active part in the forward-looking studies relating to the impact of climate change in the Durance-Verdon valley in France. This is the Risk, Water Resources and Sustainable Management in Durance in 2050 (R2D2 2050) project.

The project seeks to assess the possible impacts of climate change on the quantity and quality of water resources, biodiversity and changing demand, and uses. The goal is to inform the communities and public authorities about the measures required in order to adapt to one of the 21st Century’s greatest challenges.

Structured in different groups of tasks, project R2D2 2050 is based on three principles of innovative search. These principles are as follows:

– The development of an integrated, multidisciplinary approach to build an operational accurate representation of how the river system taking into account the main biophysical and decision-making processes, their interactions and their spatial distribution;

– The simultaneous application of the same watersheds of different hydrological models and methods for assessing future water demand to reduce uncertainties resulting from methodological choices; and

– The mobilization of local players.

Research activities are conducted in close collaboration with key players in the area, from targeted interviews and local workshops or themes that complement the prospective workshops planned.

The way forward

The author suggests SHARE could be shared within all multipurpose reservoir stakeholders and multipurpose reservoir planners to foster a sustainable water management of such reservoirs for implementation. Using these main principles is essential for multipurpose reservoirs: shared vision, shared resource, shared responsibilities, shared rights and risks, shared costs and benefits.

As end users – riparian nations and local communities – become better educated about the processes and potential outcomes in utilizing SHARE and shared concepts, it is likely a greater amount of users can benefit from abundant resources.

It is also important to continue collaboration with research initiatives on this multipurpose issue (the economic value, new financial mechanisms, and adaptive design), in particular with ICOLD and the International Energy Agency (IEA).

View the entire “Multipurpose of Water Uses of Hydropower Reservoirs” research document online, along with its in-depth charts and graphs and data sources, at:

Emmanuel Branche is a senior economist engineer with Electricite de France.

Editor’s Note: This article summarizes a 150-page research document.

Hydropower is just one of the multiple purposes for dams

According to the International Commission on Large Dam’s (ICOLD) March 2015, register, 38,452 large dams exist that have described purposes. Among these dams, 26% are multipurpose large dams that have reservoirs. Only 9,568 (25%) of large dams in the world have hydropower as one of their purposes (single or multipurpose reservoirs). Figure 2 presents these purposes for single and multi-purpose dams that have reservoirs.

In addition to hydropower, these facilities have main purposes that include: irrigation, drinking water supply, navigational conditions, flood control, drought mitigation, recreational activities and commercial fisheries.

Hydropower is currently the largest renewable power generation source (1,085 GW installed, 3,200 TWh year). According to a 2013 International Energy Agency (IEA) report, it accounts for 16% of the total electricity generated worldwide, or 76% of all electricity from renewables. The potential for additional hydropower remains considerable, especially in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Hydropower and dams: advantages and disadvantages

Hydropower and dams have both positive and negative impacts that could have transgenerationl impact.

The 2000 report by the World Commission on Dams provides documention on the degree to which multipurpose hydropower reservoirs can advance sustainable development. Reaching this objective depends on careful planning, construction and management, as well as particular attention to maximising the positive and minimising the negative aspects in project development, implementation and operation.

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