PerspectiveINFRASTRUCTURE

Can dams be designed for sustainability?

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Science  08 Dec 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6368, pp. 1252-1253
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaq1422

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Summary

Water, food, and energy security are cornerstones of a sustainable and prosperous future. Rivers play a key role in delivering critical ecosystem services that contribute to this security on a global scale. But decisions concerning how rivers are harnessed or otherwise used for the benefit of human societies inevitably create environmental and social conflicts, particularly when new dams threaten valued ecosystem services. Given the proposed proliferation of thousands of new dams in many developing countries (1), can policy-makers and managers be smarter in dam design and operation to reduce these inherent conflicts to generate valuable co-benefits? On page 1270 of this issue, Sabo et al. (2) propose a novel approach to designing flow releases from existing and proposed dams in the Mekong River Basin in order to sustain a highly valued and threatened natural fishery.