Online Course on Environmental Flows

This online course introduces the concept of environmental flows and explains why maintaining environmental flows is needed for human and ecosystem well-being. It presents the methods to assess environmental flows, including their advantages and limitations. The course also covers how environmental flows can be included at project level or when planning land use and resource development at a regional scale.

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For whom?

The online course is designed for professionals active in water resources management, environmental conservation and/or research. Typically they will belong to government institutions such as ministries of water affairs, environmental affairs, agriculture or river basin organisations.

Such people will be in a position to introduce and promote the concept of Environmental Flows in water policy, planning and management. Others will be employed in research institutions, or in engineering or environmental consultancies.

Dates, Fee, ECTS

Start: 02 September 2019
End: 10 January 2020
ECTS credit points: 5
Deadline IHE application: 01 September 2019 - 23.59 (CET)
Course fee: € 896

Start: 07 September 2020
End: 15 January 2021
Deadline IHE application: 06 September 2020 - 23.59 (CET)
Course fee: € 1035

VAT is not included in the course fee

Learning objectives

Upon completion, the participant should be able to:
  1. To be able to define environmental flows and explain their role in water resources management
  2. To acquire knowledge of the key physical, chemical and biological processes of river systems relevant to environmental flows.
  3. To be able to describe the social dimensions of environmental flows, including stakeholder involvement and social benefits of ecosystem services.
  4. To be able to list and compare legislation and policies for environmental flows of different countries
  5. To be able to list and compare the main environmental flow assessment methodologies
  6. To be able to explain different options, the factors of success and impediments for implementation of environmental flows
  7. To be able to synthesise and apply the material of the course in a real world case.

Course structure

The online course Environmental Flows is offered in full distance learning mode offering participants to study in his or her own time. Participants complete the course in a part-time, online learning mode over a period of 16 weeks with a total workload of 140 hours (equivalent to a course of 3 weeks full-time). It is expected that a participant spends about 8 hours per week in the course by reading, listening and watching videos, participating in discussions and working on assignments.

The web-based eCampus (based on Moodle) is used for downloading training material and communication. Interaction with other participants and the course instructors is organised through eg forums and discussions in Moodle.

Course content

During the online course the following subjects will be discussed:

Fundamental concepts (2 weeks)

  • To understand the key river functions and their relations to different natural and altered flows
  • To understand the importance of seasonal cycles to the functioning of the river ecosystem
  • To be able to explain the purpose, costs and benefits of environmental flows

Situation analysis (2 weeks)

  • To evaluate the different situations that exist globally (in terms of natural resources and socio-economic issues) and to understand how these influence the context of the area of interest
  • Have knowledge of the different international and national laws, policies and institutional set-ups related to environmental flows
  • Understand the different types of services ecosystems provide for society

Science of Environmental Flows (2 weeks)

  • Knowledge of the key physical, chemical and biological processes of a river system and their interactions
  • Understanding how riverine organisms and their habitats are influenced by flow and flow variation

Assessment Methodologies (4 weeks)

  • Be able to define the main types of EFA methodologies, and to describe the information and tasks required for the assessment
  • Understand and be able to explain the advantages and disadvantages of the different EFA methodologies
  • Be able to recommend a particular EFA methodology for a river known to him/her, given a particular level of resources and time-scale

Implementation (2 weeks)

  • To be able to list different options for implementing EFs and describe the advantages and disadvantages
  • Name factors of success and impediments for environmental flow implementation (technical, social, institutional, political)

Case studies - Lessons learnt (1 week)

  • Recognize and appreciate the endless variety of river types, bio-physical conditions, social and environmental priorities which need to be acknowledged for effective implementation of environmental flows
  • Understand the consequences of different levels of exploitation for the sustainable management of rivers

Group project (3 weeks)

  • Apply understanding, insight and skills gained in the course to come up with a realistic environmental flow recommendation, strategic plan and practical solutions

Each subject ends with a tutor or discussion assignment for which participants have to use their newly acquired knowledge and interact with the teacher and the other participants using the discussion platform of the Moodle platform.

The final mark for the course is based on individual assignments, contribution to discussions and the final group project. Upon successful completion of the course, participants will receive a Course Certificate issued by IHE Delft.


This course has been jointly developed by IHE Delft, World Wide Fund for Nature, The Nature Conservancy, IUCN and Deltares.


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