Developing a national framework for historic reservoir operations

Jen Steyaert and Laura Condon
Department of Hydrology and Water Resources
The University of Arizona

With increasing temperatures and water scarcity, reservoir operations will become more vital to effectively managing water. In the US alone, there are over 91,000 reservoirs that range from 0.5 to 30 meters high and collectively hold 1833979.11 MCM of water. Many researchers have attempted to numerically model reservoir operations to better assess water management in response to climate change. These attempts have increased our understanding of how reservoirs affect our water networks yet have only implemented generic rule curves based on demand. The goal of this study is to develop a framework to more realistically simulate large reservoir operations across the US based on historical data. This approach allows us to assess the differences and similarities in operational policies and their corresponding effect on US water management. To examine this question, this study used the Global Reservoir and Dam database to gather reservoir characteristics and condense the sample size from 91,000 to 2600 according to iCOLD standards for large reservoirs (greater than 15m high and 10 MCM storage). This data on dam characteristics is combined with historical data on reservoir operations. Real time reservoir inflow, outflow and storage data was gathered from The US Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation. Using this data, we apply optimization codes to determine operating policies. The hope is that this study can be used to better quantify and assess the impact operational policies have had, and will have, on water management strategies throughout the entire US.

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