Research Bulletins

These updates offer brief and current news releases about Science and Technology (S&T) Program research for Bureau of Reclamation end users, stakeholders, and other parties interested in Reclamation's Research and Development Program findings.

Visit the S&T Research Projects to view these bulletins and other research products on the respective project webpages.


  • Public Safety of Low-Head Hydraulic Structures
    Understanding public safety risks associated with submerged hydraulic jumps

    A submerged hydraulic jump produces strong rotational currents toward the dam face. The calm appearance of submerged hydraulic jumps at the water surface makes the low-head dam deceptively dangerous to river recreationalists (reprinted from Tschantz and Wright 2011).

    "Low-head hydraulic structures may create dangerous currents, hydraulic forces, and other hazardous conditions to someone trapped downstream of the structure because of localized hydraulic conditions. Over the last 50 years, dam failure fatalities have decreased while the number of low-head dam fatalities has increased (Tschantz 2014). There is momentum in the engineering community to examine public safety at low-head dams including new research and laboratory studies, professional articles, and technical committees within professional societies."
    - Connie Svoboda, Hydraulic Engineer, Hydraulic Investigations and Laboratory Services Group, Technical Service Center, Denver

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  • Addressing Hydropower Modeling Changes in Power System Models
    Improving hydropower modeling to support grid integration of renewable energy

    Monthly net electricity generation from wind and solar as share of total US electricity generation (Jan 2007 - March 2017): In the past decade, variable renewable energy generation has increased from less than 1% to nearly 10% of total US generation.

    "Hydropower facilities can provide a key source of flexibility for maintaining electric grid stability—particularly those with a high penetration of variable energy generation such as wind and solar. As more variable renewable generation sources come online, a better understanding of the capabilities and limitations of hydropower resources is important for efficient grid planning. However, modeling hydropower facilities is difficult due to a wide variety of constraints that can be broadly categorized as environmental (e.g., those imposed to limit negative impacts on the environment), operational (e.g., limitations of the generation equipment), and regulatory (e.g., binding obligations to water users)."
    - Todd Gaston, Economist, Economist and Technical Communications Group, Technical Service Center, Denver

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  • Localized Saturation on Generator Neutral Current Transformers
    Recreating a misoperation of a generator relay that was caused by localized current transformer saturation and identifying potential solutions

    Generator neutral current transformer leads.

    "In this Reclamation Science and Technology Program research project, the Hydropower Diagnostics and SCADA Group in Reclamation’s Technical Service Center recreated a misoperation of a generator relay that was caused by localized current transformer saturation, and identified potential solutions. The two identified potential solutions can be pursued in an effort to mitigate such erroneous trip situations. The first potential solution is to implement new high-security relay settings, which were recently developed for the microprocessor relay installed at the Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories. The second is to use current transformers that are designed to reject external flux for use on the generator’s neutral bus."
    - James DeHaan, Electrical Engineer, Hydropower Diagnostics and SCADA Group, Technical Service Center, Denver

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  • Eradicating Mussels at San Justo Reservoir
    Muriate of potash proof-of-concept testing and evaluating 100 percent mortality dosages, incorporating water quality and temperature variables

    Treating mussels in a Mason jar with muriate of potash.

    "In early 2008, adult zebra mussels were discovered in San Justo Reservoir (California), which has now become heavily infested. The zebra mussels pose a significant threat to the reservoir’s ecology and the ability to effectively operate the reservoir. Thus, collaborating personnel from Reclamation’s Mid-Pacific Region, the California Department of Fish and Game, San Benito County, and San Benito County Water District are proposing an attempt to eradicate the zebra mussels by treating the reservoir with potassium provided in the form of muriate of potash. This may be an effective control measure for other Reclamation locations and, thereby, significantly reduce the operation and maintenance costs incurred due to invasive mussels."
    - Scott O'Meara, Biologist, Hydraulic Investigations and Laboratory Services Group, Technical Service Center, Denver

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  • Examining Genetic Structure of Quagga Mussel Populations in the Lower Colorado River
    Microsatellite analysis of quagga mussels

    Adult quagga mussels collected from a lower Colorado River reservoir.

    "Large populations of invasive quagga mussels (Dreissena rostriformis bugensis; Andrusov, 1897) are present in reservoirs along the lower Colorado River. These reservoirs have unique water quality characteristics, which raise questions about the extent of gene flow and genetic divergence among these populations. In comparison to populations in their native range, and in the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Basins, quagga mussel populations in the Western United States are only recently established and they are likely adapting to the unique habitat characteristics of highly managed waters with novel flow regimes and water quality. Without a clear understanding of a population’s genetic diversity, it is possible that control measures will fail to target the entire population."
    - Sherri Pucherelli, Biologist, Hydraulic Investigations and Laboratory Services Group, Technical Service Center, Denver

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  • Evaluating Methods to Seal Leaking Contraction Joints in Dams
    Pumping ground-up hydrophilic waterstop and chemical grout down the upstream face of a dam may be a viable solution for repairing leaking contraction joints

    Ground-up hydrophilic waterstop before water was added (left) and after water was added (right). The cups contained the same volume of waterstop prior to activation.

    "Many Reclamation structures in use are past their design life. Waterstops are used between concrete blocks to keep water out of structures, and some of Reclamation’s dams have damaged and worn out waterstops. Once waterstops are damaged, water infiltrates the structure, which can lead to corroded metalwork and increase operating costs through increased pumping. Water can also infiltrate lift lines, which can increase uplift pressures and contribute to structural instability. In addition, this water can reduce worker productivity, as work has to be managed around these leaks. From previous research, a novel, inexpensive method was used to deliver a ground-up hydrophilic waterstop in close proximity to a leaking contraction joint. While the leaks were reduced significantly, they eventually increased because the ground-up hydrophilic waterstop was not sticky and fell off, or was sucked into the joint."
    - D. Warren Starbuck, Mechanical Engineer, Concrete, Geotechnical, and Structural Laboratory, Technical Service Center, Denver

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  • Injecting Chemical Grout Underwater
    A field demonstration of underwater chemical grout injection on inactive cracks in a Central Arizona Project canal

    A diver prepares for injecting chemical grout underwater.

    "Seepage from concrete canals continues to be a problem for Reclamation. Dewatering a canal to perform routine sealing of seepage cracks can be costly, especially for projects like the Central Arizona Project (CAP) where the canals deliver an average of 1.5 million acre-feet of water per year to approximately 80 percent of the state’s population. The Concrete, Geotechnical, and Structural Laboratory in Reclamation’s Technical Service Center conducted a laboratory research study in the summer of 2015 to determine if chemical grout could be injected underwater without having to drill portholes into the concrete. The success of this research piqued the interest of the Phoenix Area Office and CAP personnel in Reclamation’s Lower Colorado Region, which led to the performance of a field demonstration of the injection process."
    - Matthew Klein, Civil Engineer, Concrete, Geotechnical, and Structural Laboratory, Technical Service Center, Denver

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  • Using Tablet Computers for Field and Laboratory Work
    Mobile Information Collection Application (MICA)—a versatile tablet app for real-time, location-specific collection of field data, photographs, and notes

    MICA combines the functionalities of a cell phone, camera, GPS, and notepad all into one device.

    "Reclamation’s field and laboratory work require the ability to gather and process various types of data, such as global positioning system (GPS) locations, form data, photographs, videos, and notes. Reclamation has a need for a single device that is cost effective, easy to transport, and equipped with an app that combines the functionalities of a camera, GPS, and notepad into one tailorable interface to guide users through the data collection process. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) introduced the Mobile Information Collection Application (MICA), a tool developed by its Information Technology Laboratory (USACE-ITL). The MICA app is ideal for field data collection across many Reclamation departments and is modifiable for specific tasks."
    - Jessica Torrey, Materials Engineer, Materials and Corrosion Laboratory, Technical Service Center, Denver

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  • Making Sense of Global Climate Projection Data
    Geospatial and statistical analysis tools to aid scientists and engineers to access, visualize, evaluate, and use global climate projection data to inform water resources planning and design

    Leptron Avenger E Model UAS at Elephant Butte Dam, New Mexico. Note sensor gimbal at the front of the airframe.

    "The complexity and enormity of global climate projection data have hampered Reclamation’s ability to integrate climate change considerations into its planning and design processes. Nonetheless, an understanding of projected changes in precipitation and temperature is crucial for good planning and design, future operations, and decisionmaking. Reclamation’s collaboration with the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, produced an open source software toolkit and a repository of global climate projection data processed into hydrologic units (HUC8). The “Climate Analysis Toolkit” (Toolkit) was designed as an extension to HydroDesktop, a widely used, open source, Geographic Information System (GIS)-based application supported by the Consortium for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, Inc. (CUASHSI)."
    - Gregory Gault, BORGIS System Manager/Architect, Land Resources Management, Pacific Northwest Region

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  • UAS Data Collection and Photogrammetry From Elephant Butte Dam
    Using unmanned aerial systems data to build a photogrammetric three-dimensional dam model

    Leptron Avenger E Model UAS at Elephant Butte Dam, New Mexico. Note sensor gimbal at the front of the airframe.

    "Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) technology could be used rather than humans for large-scale structures and/or inaccessible features inspections. UAS have the potential of collecting high-quality data cheaper and safer than other alternatives.Photogrammetry as a condition assessment tool is a relatively new idea at Reclamation. The process of photogrammetry involves stitching a series of images together to create a digital three-dimensional (3D) model. The 3D model is overlaid with a photorealistic texture with the same resolution as the original images. Thus, the model can be inspected in lieu of an actual inspection. By inspecting digital models, the inspector is not encumbered by weather, safety, gravity, or other physical limitations. This reduces the time to perform the inspection and makes the inspection safer."
    - Matthew Klein, Civil Engineer, Concrete, Geotechnical, and Structural Laboratory, Technical Service Center, Denver

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  • ROV Data Collection and Photogrammetry From Trinity Dam Intake Structure
    Building a photogrammetric 3D model from ROV-collected data as supplement for underwater condition assessment

    The Mojave ROV used to perform the underwater intake structure inspection and photogrammetric data collection.

    "Over the past few years, Reclamation has been planning to rehabilitate several mechanical components at Trinity Dam, including the hemispherical bulkhead and fixed wheel gate. Part of the rehabilitation project also includes addressing any potential deterioration within the concrete intake structure. However, the condition of the equipment is unknown because the intake structure has not been dewatered since the time it was built in 1962. The unknown conditions cause widely variable estimates for repair costs."
    - Matthew Klein, Civil Engineer, Concrete, Geotechnical, and Structural Laboratory, Technical Service Center, Denver

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  • Quantifying Projected Changes in Groundwater Recharge in the Upper Colorado River Basin
    Groundwater recharge in the Upper Colorado River Basin may hold steady under climate change

    Simulated groundwater model results chart.

    "Understanding groundwater budget components, particularly groundwater recharge, is important to sustainably manage both groundwater and surface water supplies in the Colorado River basin now and in the future. Recently, simulations of future hydrologic conditions using downscaled climate data from one or more general circulation models and multiple emission scenarios have become an important tool for evaluating potential changes in hydrologic systems."
    - Subhrendu Gangopadhyay, Supervisory Civil Engineer, Water Resources Planning and Operations Support Group, Technical Service Center, Denver

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  • Complex Flows Through Large Woody Structures
    Developing semi-automated, three-dimensional modeling tools for predicting complex flows through large woody structures

    Predicted pressure distribution on the large woody structure, bottom and side walls (pressure unit in Pascal).

    "Providing large woody structures in a stream can help restore rivers and recover endangered species by re-establishing flow patterns and enhancing habitat. However, these large woody structures may cause scour and change the shape of the river—and these processes and risks are not well studied or understood. Methods and guidelines for determining risk, designing structures that effectively provide habitat and restore rivers, and predicting a river’s response to large woody structures are not available."
    - Yong G. Lai, Botanist, Hydraulic Engineer Sedimentation and River Hydraulics Group, Technical Service Center, Denver

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  • Riparian Vegetation: Reclamation’s Ally in River Restoration
    Developing tools to improve riparian vegetation management

    Riparian vegetation along the Sacramento River just downstream from Red Bluff, California.

    "Reclamation is responsible for implementing several large-scale river restoration programs and projects throughout the Western United States. These include the San Joaquin River Restoration Program, Central Valley Project Improvement Act, Trinity River Restoration Program, and the Middle Rio Grande Endangered Species Collaborative Program. In all of these basins, a healthy riparian corridor is critical to habitat sustainability."
    - Blair Greimann, Hydraulic Engineer, Sedimentation and River Hydraulics Group, Technical Service Center, Denver

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  • Detecting Environmental Impacts of Invasive Mussel Infestations
    Developing an algae and zooplankton database using FlowCamTM technology

    Images of mussels.

    "Dreissenid mussels in reservoirs rapidly filter nutrients out of the water, causing serious impacts to the ecosystem. FlowCamTM technology combines the benefits of digital imaging, flow cytometry, and microscopy into a single instrument to help researchers quickly and easily measure the size and shape of microscopic particles in a fluid medium. The FlowCamTM instrument and software can easily be used to create libraries of organisms that can be visually searched to determine what types of zooplankton are present in a sample."
    - Denise Hosler, Botanist, RDLES/Hydraulic Investigations and Laboratory Services Group, Technical Service Center, Denver

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FY 2016

Can Reclamation Benefit From Forward Osmosis?

Understanding the Dynamics Behind Dam Removals

Using Airborne Red, Near-IR, and Thermal-IR Imagery to Detect Leaks

Attributing Values to Pump-Generation Hydropower Plant Production Factors

Keeping Track of Data

Improving Snowmelt Models to Improve Operations in a Shifting Climate

Going Where No Human Can: Inspecting Inaccessible Features at Reclamation’s Glen Canyon Dam

Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy Coating Evaluation

Analyzing Synchronous Machines With Bypassed Coils

Service Life Determination of Wire Hoist Ropes Using Nondestructive Testing

Is Type V Cement Needed for Controlled Low Strength Material in High Sulfate Soils?

Foul-Release Scaleup: A Real World Trial of Mussel Resistant Coatings

Using Photogrammetry to Assess Reclamation’s Structures

Using Polyurethane Grouts to Seal Seepage Cracks Underwater

Easing Public Access to Reclamation’s Reservoir Water Budget Data

Two-Way Communications With Stakeholders

Making It Easier to Talk About Climate Change

Listening to Bed Load

Registering Bed Load Impacts on the Riverbed for Surrogate Bed Load Measurement

Federal Interagency Sedimentation Project

Tracking Sediment Inflow Into Reclamation’s Reservoirs

Solar Photovoltaic Desalination Using Distillation

Treat Impaired Water or Import Fresh Water?

Forecasting Extreme Flooding Events

Visualizing Salinity in the San Joaquin River Decision


FY 2015

Monoclonal Antibodies for Improved Detection of Dreissenid Mussel Larvae

Do Redear Sunfish Eat Quagga Mussels?

Detecting Free-Floating Quagga Mussel DNA

Impact of Sample Preservation on Detection of Invasive Mussels

Impact of Ultraviolet Light Treatment on Quagga Mussel Larvae

Managing Disputes Over Science: Contested Factors

Taking Cues From the Ancient Romans

Eco-Friendly Cement for Green Construction

Measuring Erodibility of Embankment Soils Containing Gravel

Polyurea Holds a Canal Together

Inspecting Reclamation Canals in New Ways

Listening for Internal Erosion

Dealing With the Inevitable: Sediment in Reservoirs

Predicting Total Dissolved Gas (TDG) for the Mid-Columbia River System

HydroSense: Publically Available Model for Evaluating Water Management Decisions


FY 2014

Using Electric Barriers for Returning Adult Salmonids

Designing Fish Ladders to Automatically Adjust to Varying Water Surface Levels

Testing Nitrogen Fertilizer to Help Restore Mature Cottonwood Trees

Placing Half Log Structures in Reservoir Drawdown Zones to Help Endangered Fish

Improving Public Safety of Large Wood Installations

Modeling How Large Woody Debris Structures Affect Rivers

Large Wood National Manual

Quickly Determining Pools and Riffles Stability in Gravel-Bed Rivers

Predicting Erosion in Rivers and Reservoir Settings

Looking at Bed Load 24 Hours a Day

Managing Datasets for Monitoring, Evaluating, and Decisionmaking

Understanding How Recharge Cycles and Dissolved Nitrate Affect Selenium

Improving Water Management With a State-of-the-Art Snow Model

Choosing the Right Meteorological Dataset for Hydrologic Simulations

Using Unmanned Aerial Systems to Monitor Sediment Flow

Measuring Biological Effects of Altered Flows

Assessing the Ecological Health of Reclamation's Reservoirs

Hydrokinetic Demonstration Results to Date and Path Forward

How Much Does it Cost to Start/Stop a Hydrogenerator?

Detecting Cavitation to Protect and Maintain Hydraulic Turbines

Catching Problems Early: Predicting Shear Pin Failures With Acoustic Emission Sensing and Analysis

Keeping Track of the Generator's Condition

Signal to Noise: Analyzing Generator Performance and Reliability

Validating and Improving Models for Power Systems

Testing and Verifying Rope Access Anchors

Making Reclamation Powerplants a Quieter Place

Safe and Grounded

Using Intelligent Compaction for Better Earthwork Construction Control

Affordable Self-Cleaning Trashrack

Understanding How Mussels Attach to Surfaces

Determining How Runoff and Temperature Changes Are Linked to Fish Habitat

Adaption Rates of Bed Load Gravel With Riverflows

Developing Automated Methods to Improve Modeling for River Channels and Features


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Last Updated: 10/16/17