Reservoir Operations Pilot Initiative

Reclamation’s Reservoir Operations Pilot Initiative is determining how reservoir operations can be made more flexible to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Reclamation's reservoirs are operated using criteria to meet a number of different water management priorities, including reliable water deliveries, power generation, environmental requirements, navigation, and flood control management. Historically, uncertainties in weather prediction and assumptions of an unchanging climate have resulted in seasonal to annual operating criteria for reservoir management. It is expected that in some locations these criteria will have to be updated with consideration to shifts in climate conditions.

In 2015, Reclamation selected five pilot studies to evaluate how weather, hydrology, and climate change information could better inform reservoir operations. Regional pilots were initiated and work began on the pilot studies in January 2016. The studies will be conducted from January 2016 through December 2017. Map of Western United States showing the pilot studies on a map.

The five regional pilot studies identified include the following:

The Reservoir Operations Pilot Initiative is a high priority action under Reclamation’s Climate Change Adaptation Strategy first goal to increase water management flexibility. Reclamation is also coordinating with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers where storage is co-managed through the National Drought Resilience Partnership. Reservoir operation pilots are critical to understanding where flexibilities in reservoir operations may be increased through identifying trends in historic and projected climate, hydrology, sedimentation, and conjunctive groundwater management. Pilot studies will be used to develop Reclamation guidance on how to identify and implement improvements to reservoir operations by considering improved scientific information, enhancing existing operational flexibility, and assessing changes to reservoir operations under drought conditions.

Last Updated: 1/13/17