Columbia River Climate Change Studied

SEATTLE, Jan. 25 (UPI) — U.S. engineers say they’ve taken a first look at how climate change might be managed at Columbia River Basin dams — the nation’s largest hydropower system.

Scientists from the University of Washington and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said they developed a technique to determine when to empty reservoirs in the winter for flood control and when to refill them in the spring to provide storage for the coming year.

Computer simulations showed switching to the new management system under a warmer future climate would lessen summer losses in hydropower due to climate change by about a quarter. It would also bolster flows for fish by filling reservoirs more reliably. At the same time, the approach reduced the risk of flooding.

“There are anticipated dramatic changes in the snowpack which ultimately will affect when the water comes into the Columbia’s reservoirs,” said study co-author Alan Hamlet, a University of Washington assistant research professor. “We were trying to develop new tools and procedures for changing flood control operating rules in response to these changes in hydrology, and to test how well they work in practice.”

The findings are reported in the Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management.

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