Managing Reservoirs for Climate Change using Dynamic Operations

Last Modified: Apr 23, 2012


  • Dan Sheer and Megan Rivera - Hydrologics
  • Ben Wright, Ben Stanford, and W. Josh Weiss - Hazen and Sawyer

Altered precipitation patterns caused by climate change are of primary concern to drinking water utilities because of the direct impact on risk to supply and quality of drinking water, as well as the ability to meet other objectives (environmental releases, hydropower, recreation, etc.). Water utilities are searching for alternative approaches to respond to an uncertain future. Dynamic reservoir operations have great potential as an agile tool to help utilities respond to the uncertainty of climate change.

In most cases, operating objectives, which generally include reliability, cost, and regulatory compliance, are more successfully achieved using dynamic reservoir operating (DRO) rules because they are more flexible and capitalize on more information than static rules. This diversity of information tends to result in a more robust operational framework, providing utilities more options for operating their system to meet objectives under varying conditions.

Planning for climate change adaptation may suggest the need for new infrastructure development. However, DRO will, in many cases, provide alternatives, which will be especially valuable given the tremendous uncertainty in the current climate predictions: if the expected range of basin inflow becomes more optimistic, a DRO approach will prevent investment in unnecessary infrastructure.

In this talk, we will demonstrate the potential of Dynamic Reservoir Operations to meet river basin management objectives including those of water supply. We will discuss the development, implementation, and benefits of DROs for a number of case studies. We will also provide updates on the evaluation of DRO for climate change adaptation that are being performed for a number of utilities as part of the Water Research Foundation project 4306 Analysis of Reservoir Operations under Climate Change.

Read the full paper.

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