River regulation for the purposes of public water supply causes the flow regime downstream of a dam to change. Traditionally, in the UK, such regulation was accompanied by requirements for reservoir releases to compensate downstream water users (e.g. industry) for the loss of natural flow (compensation flows). In this article, we compare a unique pre-impoundment macroinvertebrate data set for a regulated upland river with survey data post-impoundment. This allows a longitudinal assessment of the response of the system to regulation. The Derwent River, Northumberland, was impounded in 1966. Impacts on the hydrological regime were quantified by comparing long-term hydrographs, flow duration curves, flow ranges and flashiness indices for the pre-impoundment and post-impoundment periods. The comparison of changes in macroinvertebrate richness and diversity post-impoundment showed that the change in flow regime has had limited effect on the ecological community structure. The flow regime of the Derwent River has become less flashy with fewer extreme events, and the richness and the diversity of macroinvertebrates have, in some cases, increased and at worst have not deteriorated. We suggest that this reflects the strict compensation regime, which has guaranteed minimum flows at all times.
- compensation flow