The assessment of environmental flows in rivers is of vital importance for preserving riverine ecosystem processes. This paper addresses the evaluation of environmental flow requirements in three reaches along a typical perennial river (the Zab transboundary river, in north-west Iran), using different hydraulic, hydrological and ecological methods. The main objective of this study came from the construction of three dams and inter-basin transfer of water from the Zab River to the Urmia Lake. Eight hydrological methods (i.e. Tennant, Tessman, flow duration curve analysis, range of variability approach, Smakhtin, flow duration curve shifting, desktop reserve and 7Q2&10 (7-day low flow with a 2- and 10-year return period)); two hydraulic methods (slope value and maximum curvature); and two habitat simulation methods (hydraulic–ecologic, and Q Equation based on water quality indices) were used. Ecological needs of the riverine key species (mainly Barbus capito fish), river geometries, natural flow regime and the environmental status of river management were the main indices for determining the minimum flow requirements. The results indicate that the order of 35%, 17% and 18% of the mean annual flow are to be maintained for the upper, middle and downstream river reaches, respectively. The allocated monthly flow rates in the three Dams steering program are not sufficient to preserve the Zab River life.

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