Reservoir Sedimentation Economics Model

The Reservoir Sedimentation and Economics Model (RSEM) has been developed to simulate and compare the economic benefits and costs of a reservoir, both with and without sediment management.  The comparative simulations can be used to help determine where reservoir sediment management is economically preferred to a no action alternative without sediment management.  RSEM can be applied to both new and existing reservoirs.  RSEM is not meant to be a substitute for detailed hydraulic, sediment, and economic investigations but can provide useful results for understanding the economic outcomes of implementing sustainable sediment management versus ignoring the problem until forced to take action.

RSEM can annually simulate sedimentation within a reservoir and along the upstream river channel.  Annual channel degradation is simulated along the downstream channel.  In addition, RSEM can annually simulate a comprehensive set of economic benefits and costs over future decades and centuries.

Annual benefits are estimated under six beneficial use categories:

  • Irrigated agriculture
  • Municipal and industrial water supply
  • Fish and wildlife enhancement
  • Flood risk reduction
  • Hydropower generation
  • Reservoir-based recreation
Annual costs are estimated for:
  • Planning, design, and construction of the dam
  • Land acquisition for the dam and reservoir
  • Operation, maintenance, and replacement
  • Sediment management
  • Upstream channel aggradation
  • Downstream channel degradation
  • Dam decommissioning
The model uses exponential discounting as the standard approach.  The user may also select other discounting approaches for research or comparison purposes (seven other economic discounting approaches are available).  Model results for alternatives with and without sediment management include benefit-cost ratios and net present value over a range of analysis periods.  Additional decision support metrics include breakeven and retirement fund analyses.


  • Technical Report (PDF 8.1 MB):
    • Reservoir Sedimentation Economics Model (RSEM) Description
      Technical Report No. ENV-2021-058, April 2023

  • Appendices (PDF 4.7 MB):
    • Appendix A—Reservoir Sedimentation Economics Model (RSEM) User Guide
    • Appendix B—RSEM Spreadsheet Organization

  • Spreadsheet Model (Excel SS 4.9 MB)

  • Example Model Case Studies:
Last Updated: 5/31/23