Nea river becomes large-scale case study for HydroCen

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HydroCen puts forward its full capacity of knowledge on environmental design to research consequences of power production in inland river systems.

In cooperation with Statkraft and local partners, researchers will use the Nea river as a case study for multiple research projects in the coming years.

—  We see this as the perfect river-system to take the concept of environmental design one step further, says Ove Berggård, director at Nea power station.

The river is heavily regulated with multiple power stations. There are reservoirs at the top of the system and several power plants downstream that produce electricity when demand is high. It is mainly the demand for power production that decides the water flow in the river. In addition, people live all the way along the river.

HydroCen cooperates with Statkraft to research several aspects of environmental design in the Nea river. Ove Berggård (Statkraft) to the left and Torbjørn Forseth (NINA/HydroCen) to the right. Foto: Juliet Landrø/HydroCen.

Broader Environmental design

All hydropower production leads to changes in the river. The goal of environmental design is to find out how we can produce power while ensuring a healthy environment in and around the river.

Through the FME CEDREN researchers developed the concept of Environmental design for salmon rivers, now HydroCen researchers extend the method to several other species.

— There is more than salmon in the rivers, there is even more than fish in the rivers, says researcher Torbjørn Forseth. He leads the work on environmental design HydroCen.

Hydrologists, biologists, and social scientists will investigate conditions for trout, benthic fauna, ecosystems, as well as human activity in and around the river.

Researchers, local interest representatives, policymakers and Statkraft-representatives contributed with advice and comments. Photo: Juliet Landrø/HydroCen.

Researchers will also develop new methods for surveying and mapping rivers. The goal is to develop tools that can be easily used by decision makers, power producers, and researchers.

Environmental design is like taking the river to the doctor. Researchers find out what is wrong, determine a diagnosis, and then try to take measures to make the river healthy again. One measure could be using the water itself differently.

— With knowledge of when fish or nature need more or less water, the power producers could use the water smarter, says Forseth.

It could also be physical measures.

— One can make changes in the river with diggers, construct shelters for fish, put out spawning gravel and similar things, says Forseth.

From ethics to ecology

A large part of the expanded concept of environmental design is the aspect of social science.

— People here practically live on the river, that makes this location interesting for social scientists as well, says Berggård.

They have already started their fieldwork and are doing interviews and surveys in the area.

— American researchers have done a lot of research on activities like rafting and fishing in regulated rivers, but no one has asked how walkers and hikers relate to rivers, says researcher Margrete Skår.

Hiking is an extremely popular activity in Norway, and more than 90% of Norwegians say that they go for hikes or walks.

— We think that kindergartens, schools, and individuals actively use these areas, but since they aren’t organized in interest groups, we don’t know a lot about how they use the area, she says.

Local research for universal methods

Locally people will notice researchers both in, around and over the river. Researchers will, among other things, be using drones and airplanes to scan the river with green laser technology (LIDAR).

—  The goal is to get some specific results for this river-system and contribute with knowledge and measures in the years to come, says project leader Atle Harby.

— We are also working with highly qualified international partners, who are experts on mapping rivers with drones and satellites, he says.

— The goal is to put forward the full extent of our combined knowledge in HydroCen. This way we can further develop environmental design and make tools that are useful in other regulated rivers as well.

Contact: Torbjørn Forseth & Atle Harby

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