Optimized flood control in the Columbia River Basin for a global warming scenario


Lee, S-Y., Hamlet, A.F., Fitzgerald, C.J., Burges, S.J., Lettenmaier, D.P. 2009. Optimized flood control in the Columbia River Basin for a global warming scenario. Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management 135(6): 440-450, doi:10.1061/(ASCE)0733-9496(2009)135:6(440).


Anticipated future temperature changes in the mountainous U.S. Pacific Northwest will cause reduced spring snow pack, earlier melt, earlier spring peak flow and lower summer flow in transient rain-snow and snowmelt dominant river basins. In the context of managed flood control, these systematic changes are likely to disrupt the balance between flood control and reservoir refill in existing reservoir systems. To adapt to these hydrologic changes, refill timing and evacuation requirements for flood control need to be modified.

This work poses a significant systems engineering problem, especially for large, multiobjective water systems. An existing optimization/simulation procedure is refined for rebalancing flood control and refill objectives for the Columbia River Basin for anticipated global warming. To calibrate the optimization model for the 20th century flow, the objective function is tuned to reproduce the current reliability of reservoir refill, while providing comparable levels of flood control to those produced by current flood control practices. After the optimization model is calibrated using the 20th century flow the same objective function is used to develop flood control curves for a global warming scenario which assumes an approximately 2°C increase in air temperature. Robust decreases in system storage deficits are simulated for the climate change scenario when optimized flood rule curves replace the current flood control curves, without increasing monthly flood risks.