Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Managing Pacific Northwest dams for a changing climate

22.01.2010
Civil engineers at the University of Washington and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Seattle office have taken a first look at how dams in the Columbia River basin, the nation's largest hydropower system, could be managed for a different climate.

They developed a new technique to determine when to empty reservoirs in the winter for flood control and when to refill them in the spring to provide storage for the coming year. Computer simulations showed that switching to the new management system under a warmer future climate would lessen summer losses in hydropower due to climate change by about a quarter.

It would also bolster flows for fish by filling reservoirs more reliably. At the same time the approach reduced the risk of flooding. The findings are published in the Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management.

"There are anticipated dramatic changes in the snowpack which ultimately will affect when the water comes into the Columbia's reservoirs," said co-author Alan Hamlet, a UW research assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering who works in the UW's Climate Impacts Group. "We were trying to develop new tools and procedures for changing flood control operating rules in response to these changes in hydrology, and to test how well they work in practice."

"Changes in flood control operations constitute only one climate-change adaptation strategy," Hamlet added, "but our study shows that incorporating climate change in flood management plans can improve the performance of existing water systems in future climates."

Predicted hydrologic changes for the Pacific Northwest, and other mountain regions, include less springtime snowpack, earlier snow melt, earlier peaks in river flow and lower summer flows. Water managers currently use a system based on historical stream-flow records to gauge when to open and close the floodgates as part of a legally binding system that seeks to balance hydropower generation, flood risks, irrigation and other needs between regions.

The authors created a computer program that uses long-term forecasts rather than historical records to recalculate when to begin filling and emptying the major storage reservoirs in the Columbia River basin in a warmer climate. They compared historical conditions with a scenario where temperatures are 2 degrees Celsius higher on average than today, a change expected in the Pacific Northwest by the second half of this century.

The simulations suggested water managers could successfully deal with warmer conditions by refilling the system's reservoirs as much as one month earlier in the spring.

"For some locations, due to the reduced snowpack and spring peak flow we don't need to worry as much about the floods during the springtime," said lead author Se-Yeun Lee, who did the work for her doctorate at the UW and is now a UW postdoctoral researcher. "With reduced flood risk we can release less water and refill earlier. As a result we can supply more hydropower in summer and more storage for other needs like fish flows."

The project aims to help regional water managers develop methods to deal with changes in the hydrological cycle.

"In talking to water resource managers, they often feel stymied because currently there are no established analytical procedures that can be used to rebalance their system for a different climate," Hamlet said. "They see the problem, but the tools to deal with the problem are not in place."

It likely will be years before these management practices are formally changed, the authors said, but this study is a first step in that direction.

"We need to develop the tools to be able to handle a changing climate now, so we're not rushing when it becomes a problem," said co-author Stephen Burges, a UW professor of civil and environmental engineering.

Carolyn Fitzgerald, a UW graduate who is now at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Seattle, also is a co-author. Research funding was provided by the UW Climate Impacts Group.

For more information, contact Hamlet at 206-616-9361 or hamleaf@uw.edu and Lee at 206-543-0423 or leesy@uw.edu.

Hannah Hickey | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uw.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Real-time feedback helps save energy and water
08.02.2017 | Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg

nachricht The Great Unknown: Risk-Taking Behavior in Adolescents
19.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Microhotplates for a smart gas sensor

22.02.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Scientists unlock ability to generate new sensory hair cells

22.02.2017 | Life Sciences

Prediction: More gas-giants will be found orbiting Sun-like stars

22.02.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>