Journal of Water Security, Volume 1 (2015)

Impact of small hydropower plants on physicochemical and biotic environments in flatland riverbeds of Lithuania

Saulius Vaikasas, Nijole Bastiene, Virginija Pliuraite
Aleksandras Stulginskis University; Nature Research Centre


The impact of a small hydropower plant (SHP) on river water quality and macroinvertebrates has been investigated in 5 Lithuanian rivers and involved 17 dams of which ten are in a sequence in the same river system. The hydrostatic head of SHP dams ranged from 2.75 to 14.50 m and the capacities of their reservoirs varied from 40×103 to 15,500×103 m3. Physicochemical characteristics, as well as macroinvertebrate communities, were evaluated in sites above and below the SHP dams comparing them with reference sites.

It was established that construction of SHP dams (H<15 m) in Lithuania substantially changed regimes of suspended solids, fine particles and nutrients only locally regardless of hydrostatic head of the dam. Compared to reference sites, SHP reservoirs and sites below SHP dams had relatively more Chironomidae larvae and Oligochaeta, and less Coleoptera larvae as well as the relative abundance of pollution-sensitive Ephemeroptera and EPT. Water quality according to biotic indexes (DSFI and HBI) in the sites influenced by SHP dams was recognised to be moderate or poor, but impact was only local. This suggests that increment of catchment’s area and intensive land use for agriculture within the river basin plays more important role than SHP dams.

Keyword(s): SHP dams, environmental impact, macroinvertebrates, nutrients, suspended solids


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