Although the benefits of dam construction are numerous, particularly in the context of climate change and growing global demand for electricity, recent experience has shown that many dams have serious negative environmental, human, and political consequences. Despite an extensive literature documenting the benefits and costs of dams from a single disciplinary perspective, few studies have simultaneously evaluated the distribution of biophysical, socio-economic, and geopolitical implications of dams. To meet the simultaneous demands for water, energy, and environmental protection well into the future, a broader view of dams is needed. We thus propose a new tool for evaluating the relative costs and benefits of dam construction based on multi-objective planning techniques. The Integrative Dam Assessment Modeling (IDAM) tool is designed to integrate biophysical, socio-economic, and geopolitical perspectives into a single cost/benefit analysis of dam construction. Each of 27 different impacts of dam construction is evaluated both objectively (e.g., flood protection, as measured by RYI years) and subjectively (i.e., the valuation of said flood protection) by a team of decision-makers. By providing a visual representation of the various costs and benefits associated with two or more dams, the IDAM tool allows decision-makers to evaluate alternatives and to articulate priorities associated with a dam project, making the decision process about dams more informed and more transparent. For all of these reasons, we believe that the IDAM tool represents an important evolutionary step in dam evaluation.
Journal of Environmental Management – Elsevier
Published: Jul 1, 2009
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