Socioeconomic Value(s) of Restoring Environmental Flows: Systematic Review and Guidance for Assessment

D. Jorda-Capdevila, B. Rodríguez-Labajos

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. The preservation of instream flows entails multiple benefits not only for river ecosystems but also for human well-being. Benefits of marketed goods and services provided by water withdrawals such as irrigation, water supply and hydropower production are well-known. Others, such as recreational, aesthetic, cultural and existence values of a well-preserved river flows are less studied. There is an increasing interest of policy makers to understand the benefits of costly river ecosystem restoration measures. Moreover, disregarding such benefits may turn into inter-stakeholder conflicts. This paper reviews empirically-based literature assessing environmental flows restoration/conservation. Thus, it offers the state-of-the-art on three aspects: 1) what motivations drive the socioeconomic evaluation of instream flows (policies and alternative instream flow regimes); 2) what values and benefits are associated with instream flows (e.g. the sheer existence of a well-preserved river, productive assets and cultural attributes); and 3) what methods are employed to undertake such assessments (e.g. scenario development, monetary and non-monetary valuations, and stakeholders engagement). Building on this, we propose a methodological framework for case-specific assessments of the restoration of environmental flows. This proposal combines increased stakeholder participation, better understanding of ecosystem functioning, awareness of the plurality of values and an accurate choice of valuation methods. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305-320
JournalRiver Research and Applications
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017


  • economic valuation
  • ecosystem services
  • instream flows
  • non-market benefits
  • river restoration


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