Map of existing and proposed dams in the Amazon basin

Over 350 new dams (>1 MW) have been proposed throughout the Amazon basin. Great variety exists in the geographic and technical aspects of the proposed dams in the Amazon basin. They range in size from small power plants (<10 MW) to megaprojects (up to ~6,000 MW) and are proposed in a diverse set of river ecosystems and settings, from low-discharge, high-elevation headwater streams in the Andes (up to ~4,000 m above sea level) to vast, high-discharge floodplain rivers in the Amazon lowlands.

As a result, the nature of and degree of environmental disruption per unit of electricity generated varies dramatically; therefore, strategic selection of future dam sites is imperative for reducing the adverse impacts of new Amazon hydropower on both people and nature.

Amazon EcoVistas is an interactive graphic based on multi-objective optimization for visualizing trade-offs in different optimal dam configurations across the entire Amazon Basin. These solutions consider a wide array of criteria, looking to balance the energy production while minimizing river connectivity loss, sediment trapping, fish biodiversity threat, hydrological alteration, and greenhouse gas emissions for any given hydropower target. Learn more here and start exploring our multidimensional Pareto frontier visualizer.

Santo Antônio dam, Brazil.
Santo Antônio dam, Brazil. With ~3500 MW of installed capacity, this run-of-river dam was recently built on the sediment-laden Madeira River. The mean discharge at the dam site is equivalent to the mean discharge of North America's largest river—the Mississippi—at its mouth.
Photo by Rafael Almeida
Agoyan dam, Ecuador.
Agoyan dam, Ecuador. In operation since the 1980s, this 156 MW dam in the Andean mountains severely regulates the natural flow of the Pastaza River, dewatering downstream reaches.
Photo by Elizabeth Anderson


Alexander S. Flecker, Qinru Shi, Rafael M. Almeida, Héctor Angarita, Jonathan M. Gomes-Selman, Roosevelt García-Villacorta, Suresh A. Sethi, Steven A. Thomas, N. LeRoy Poff, Bruce R. Forsberg, Sebastian A. Heilpern, Stephen K. Hamilton, Jorge D. Abad, Elizabeth P. Anderson, Nathan Barros, Isabel Carolina Bernal, Richard Bernstein, Carlos M. Cañas, Olivier Dangles, Andrea C. Encalada, Ayan S. Fleischmann, Michael Goulding, Jonathan Higgins, Céline Jezequel, Erin I. Larson, Peter B. McIntyre, John M. Melack, Mariana Montoya, Thierry Oberdorff, Rodrigo Paiva, Guillaume Perez, Brendan H. Rappazzo, Scott Steinschneider, Sandra Torres, Mariana Varese, M. Todd Walter, Xiaojian Wu, Yexiang Xue, Xavier E. Zapata-Ríos, Carla P. Gomes (2022). Reducing adverse impacts of Amazon hydropower expansion. Science, 375(6582): 753–760. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.abj4017


Funding and logistical support for the development of this project have been provided by the Cornell Institute for Computational Sustainability, the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability, and the U.S. National Science Foundation (CCF-1522054).