The Report also gives an overview of dam decommissioning’s socio-economic impacts, including those on local livelihoods, heritage, property value, recreation, and aesthetics. Notably, the nature of these impacts varies significantly between low- and high-income countries The Report shows that while dam decommissioning is a relatively recent phenomenon, it is gaining pace in the USA and Europe, where many dams are older. However, it is primarily small dams that have been removed to date, and the decommissioning of large dams is still in its infancy, with only a few known cases in the last decade.
A few case studies of ageing and decommissioned large dams illustrate the complexity and length of the process that is often necessary to orchestrate the dam removal safely. Even removing a small dam requires years (often decades), continuous expert and public involvement, and lengthy regulatory reviews. With the mass ageing of dams well underway, it is important to develop a framework of protocols that will guide and accelerate the process of dam removal.
Overall, the Report aims to attract global attention to the creeping issue of ageing water storage infrastructure and stimulate international efforts to deal with this emerging water risk. This Report’s primary target audiences are governments and their partners responsible for planning and implementing water infrastructure development and management, emphasizing adaptation to a changing climate and sustainable development.