Around the world, there is a huge need for clean and reliable water and energy supplies. Large dams often provide these services at a massive social, environmental and economic cost. The good news is that better solutions exist. Clean, local energy sources such as wind, solar and micro-hydropower have become affordable and widely available. Traditional and newly developed techniques to store rainfall locally can supply water without the serious impacts of large dams. Decentralized water and energy solutions are more effective at reaching rural communities than projects that depend on centralized electric grids and irrigation networks. Due to their diversified nature, they are also less vulnerable to climate change than putting all water and energy eggs into the basket of a large dam.

In addition to better technologies, improved planning and decision-making frameworks address economic, social and environmental concerns in a balanced way and allow local communities to participate in the decisions that affect their lives and livelihoods; learn more in the "sound planning processes" section below. And in watersheds where dams have already been built, there are ways to restore the health of river ecosystems and communities, as the "healthy rivers" section below highlights.

International Rivers has long advocated for solutions to that can achieve equitable access to energy, water, food security and protection from damaging floods. We promote energy and water solutions that benefit the poor without causing the massive impacts of large dams. We advocate for planning and decision-making processes that integrate social and environmental concerns and give local communities a place at the negotiating table. We also highlight ways to manage floods sustainably and to restore the health of rivers that have been choked by over-damming. Below you’ll find some key resources on exciting solutions that avoid major harm to the planet’s lifelines.