Publications

Federal Decentralization and Adaptive Management of Water Resources: Reservoir Reallocation by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Reservoir operations must respond to changing conditions, such as climate, water demand, regulations, and sedimentation. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) can reallocate reservoir storage to respond to such changes. We assembled and analyzed a database of reservoir reallocations implemented and proposed by the Corps.

Managing Rivers Under Changing Environmental and Societal Boundary Conditions, Part 1: National Trends and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Reservoirs

Most major rivers in the United States are managed by a system of reservoirs; many of which were built more than a half century ago. These reservoirs were designed based on environmental, societal, and regulatory assumptions at the time of construction. Since then, we have learned that climate is not stationary, population growth is being decoupled from energy needs and water demand, and new regulations (such as the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act) affect how river systems are managed.

Managing Rivers Under Changing Environmental and Societal Boundary Conditions, Part 2: Expected Compared With Experienced Conditions at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Reservoirs

Reservoirs are critical infrastructure typically built to function as designed for 50 to 100 years. The majority of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoirs are more than 50 years old. The environmental, societal, and regulatory conditions surrounding the reservoir, that is, the reservoir's expected conditions, shaped its design. Many of these expectations assumed a future similar to the past. However, recent decades have experienced warming climates, cyclical changes in precipitation, the introduction of new regulations, and populations concentrating in urban environments.

The Financial and Environmental Risks of In Lieu Fee Programs for Compensatory Mitigation

This is a review of a sample of In Lieu Fee (ILF) Programs through an analysis of general incentives created by the ILF Program model, and through drawing on a small sample of ILF Programs as case studies. This review focuses on the incentives created by ILF Programs as a mechanism of compensatory mitigation; while other forms of compensatory mitigation—permittee-responsible mitigation and mitigation banking—are not without their problems, there are intrinsic financial and environmental risks that are unique to ILF Programs. The insights gained from this limited review also demonstrate the need for a systematic review of ILF Programs across the U.S., particularly (a) consistency of CWA ILF Programs since the implementation of the 2008 Mitigation Rule, and (b) emerging ESA ILF Programs and their divergence from best practice principles present in the 2008 Mitigation Rule.

Reaching Watershed Scale Through Cooperation and Integration

"Reaching Watershed Scale Through Cooperation and Integration" summarizes the Aspen-Nicholas Water Forum discussions of May-June 2018. The forum explored how integration could address the mismatch between what has traditionally been local solutions for local water issues and emerging water challenges that impact large geographic regions, multiple sectors, and different community functions. Integration is intended to synergistically combine efforts and resources to create benefits that could not have been individually achieved. The forum explored the opportunities and challenges to integration within and between water sectors, identifying common elements for success.

Addressing Declining Appropriations for Bureau of Reclamation Infrastructure: Policies Needed for Enabling Private Finance

Western water infrastructure was funded in the early and mid‐20th Century with federal financing through the Bureau of Reclamation. Over the last 30 years, federal financing has been less forthcoming, which has been commensurate with an increase in the need for financing rehabilitation and replacement of western irrigation infrastructure. This article in the Journal of the American Water Resources Association suggests that if the Office of Management and Budget changed its policies for private partnerships or loan guarantees, private capital could play an important role in recapitalizing aging Reclamation infrastructure.

The Value of Water Information: Overcoming the Global Data Drought

This paper is a call to action for data users, data providers, and global decision makers concerned about water resources, climate resilience, and sustainable development. It provides an overview of hydrological monitoring systems and explains the importance of public water data to national governance, resource management, planning, and efforts to achieve global objectives such as the Sustainable Development Goals. 

The Source: How Rivers Made America and America Remade Its Rivers

America has more than 250,000 rivers, coursing over more than 3 million miles and serving as integral trade routes, borders, passageways, sewers, and sinks. Over the years, based on our shifting needs and values, we have harnessed their power with waterwheels and dams, straightened them for ships, drained them with irrigation canals, set them on fire, and even attempted to restore them. This environmental history tells the story of America and its rivers, from the U.S. Constitution’s roots in interstate river navigation, the origins of the Army Corps of Engineers, the discovery of gold in 1848, and the construction of the Hoover Dam and the TVA during the New Deal, to the failure of the levees in Hurricane Katrina and the water wars in the west. Along the way, it explores how rivers have often been the source of arguments at the heart of the American experiment―over federalism, sovereignty and property rights, taxation, regulation, conservation, and development.  

Creating Data as a Service for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Reservoirs

In the United States, our water data infrastructure does not allow us to consistently and quickly answer the most basic questions about our water system’s quantity, quality, and use. This report describes the challenges and opportunities of integrating U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 36 districts’ historic reservoir data and management operations. A companion tool to visualize data as well as the data files related to this report are available to view and download. Research by the authors to identify the frequency and magnitude of departures from operational targets of Army Corps-operated reservoirs is presented in the Journal of the American Water Resources Association

A Nationwide Analysis of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Reservoir Performance in Meeting Operational Targets

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. 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.