Risk-based decision making in reservoir operations

Project ID: 1881
Principal Investigator: Jordan Lanini
Research Topic: Water Operation Models and Decision Support Systems
Funded Fiscal Years: 2018, 2019 and 2020
Keywords: None

Research Question

Can a decision-making framework based on pre-determined acceptable levels of risk for system constraints improve reservoir operations? Reservoir operations in the Great Plains Region currently lack a systematic approach for assessing the risk of outcomes resulting from operational decisions. Forecasters utilize qualitative, professional judgments on likelihood of inflow volume and timing to assess the risk of negative outcomes. Final operational decisions are made on these qualitative assessments of risk. Numerous previous efforts have developed reservoir inflow forecast ensembles, which reservoir operators can use in conjunction with reservoir operations models to make risk-based, rather than deterministic decisions on operations.

Need and Benefit

A significant reservoir operations need in Great Plains Region is to rapidly evaluate a large number of potential reservoir inflow scenarios in order to make short- and mid-term operational decisions. These scenarios are currently created manually by adjusting inflow timing and volume within a daily operations spreadsheet. Risk is then assessed qualitatively to make a final operational decision.

GP reservoir operators do not have a systematic, risk-based methodology for operational decisions, nor are we aware of any within Reclamation. This results in operators using professional judgment on an ad-hoc basis to evaluate risk.

This research will provide a case study for automating and rapidly evaluating numerous potential inflow scenarios, significantly improving staff efficiency. The project will also provide clarity to the decision-making process. The current lack of operational clarity leaves Reclamation management and staff open to criticism, or in the extreme, to lawsuits, if operations damage water users in some manner.

Contributing Partners

Contact the Principal Investigator for information about partners.

Research Products

Please contact research@usbr.gov about research products related to this project.

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Last Updated: 6/22/20