A service and value based approach to estimating environmental flows

Louise Korsgaard, R.A. Jensen, Torkil Jønch-Clausen, Dan Rosbjerg, Jesper S. Schou

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


An important challenge of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) is to
balance water allocation between different users and uses. While economically and/or politically powerful users have relatively well developed methods for quantifying and justifying their water needs, this is not the case for ecosystems – the silent water user. Therefore, ecosystems are frequently omitted from water allocation decision-making. In IWRM, environmental flows may serve to represent water for ecosystems. As ecosystems, in turn, provide services to people, providing for environmental flows is not exclusively a matter of sustaining ecosystems but also a matter of supporting humankind/livelihoods. One reason for the marginalisation of environmental flows is the lack of operational methods to demonstrate the inherently multi-disciplinary link between environmental flows, ecosystem services and economic value. This paper aims at filling that gap by presenting a new environmental flows assessment approach that explicitly links environmental flows to (socio)-economic values by focusing on ecosystem services. This Service Provision Index (SPI) approach is a novel contribution
to the existing field of environmental flows assessment methodologies. The SPI
approach is a pragmatic and transparent tool for incorporating ecosystems and
environmental flows into the evaluation of water allocation scenarios, negotiations of trade-offs and decision-making in IWRM.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of River Basin Management
Pages (from-to)257-266
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • Environmental flows
  • Ecosystem services
  • Economic valuation
  • Multidisciplinary approach
  • Service Provision Index (SPI)
  • Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM)

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