Impact of Variable Reservoir Releases on Management of Downstream Water Temperatures

By John C. Carron and Harihar Rajaram. Published in Water Resources Research, 2001. 

Abstract: A coupled unsteady flow and heat transport model is used to determine the impacts of fluctuating reservoir releases on downstream water temperatures. Maintenance of stream temperatures is one of the most common reasons cited for imposition of minimum flow requirements in regulated (reservoir controlled) rivers. Minimum flow constraints for temperature control are typically developed using worst-case scenarios (i.e., maximum air temperature, clear sky, etc.) of atmospheric conditions. We show that shortterm modifications to reservoir releases based on local meteorological conditions can reduce the volume of water released, while still meeting temperature objectives. A case study of the Green River below Flaming Gorge Dam shows that for certain sets of temperature objectives and atmospheric conditions, a diurnally varying release may be the only way to meet multiple temperature objectives at different downstream locations. In the examples discussed, savings of nearly 20% in total release volume could be realized by using variable releases.


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