Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operates reservoirs across the United States. Most (89 percent) of the reservoirs were constructed prior to 1980, and many have experienced changes in environmental conditions such as climate and sediment yield and societal conditions such as water and energy demand. These changes may challenge the potential for reservoirs to meet their operational targets and management goals. To identify the frequency and magnitude of departures from operational targets, this analysis published in the Journal of the American Water Resources Association collected Army Corps reservoir targets and historic daily reservoir data for 233 reservoirs. It found that 56 percent of reservoirs consistently met operating targets, 30 percent were borderline, and 13 percent experienced frequent and large magnitude departures. Fifty-two percent of reservoirs with large departures were due to water shortages and were located in the South Pacific and Southwestern divisions. This work provides a framework to identify reservoir performance in relation to management goals, a necessary step for moving toward adaptive management under changing conditions. Individual reservoir analyses are accessible through an interactive data visualization tool. Companion research by the authors on Army Corps-operated reservoirs is presented in the report, Creating Data as a Service for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Reservoirs.
See the Reservoir Series for related publications and interactive tools.