Nonlinear Filtering Effects of Reservoirs on Flood Frequency Curves at the Regional Scale


Reservoir operations may alter the characteristics of Flood Frequency Curve (FFC) and challenge the basic assumption of stationarity used in flood frequency analysis. This paper presents a combined data-modeling analysis of reservoir as a nonlinear filter of runoff routing that alters the FFCs. A dimensionless Reservoir Impact Index (RII), defined as the total upstream reservoir storage capacity normalized by the annual streamflow volume, is used to quantify reservoir regulation effects. Analyses are performed for 388 river stations in the contiguous U.S. using the first two moments of the FFC, mean annual maximum flood (MAF) and coefficient of variations (CV), calculated for the pre and post-dam periods. It is found that MAF generally decreases with increasing RII but stabilizes when RII exceeds a threshold value, and CV increases with RII until a threshold value beyond which CV decreases with RII. Hence depending on the magnitude of RII, reservoir regulation acts as a filter to increase or reduce the nonlinearity of the natural runoff routing process and alters flood characteristics. The nonlinear relationships of MAF and CV with RII can be captured by three reservoir models with different levels of complexity, suggesting that they emerge from the basic flood control function of reservoirs. However, the threshold RII values in the nonlinear relationships depend on the more detailed reservoir operations and objectives that can only be captured by the more complex reservoir models. Our conceptual model may help improve flood-risk assessment and mitigation in regulated river systems at the regional scale.




Wang, Wei, Hong-Yi Li, L. Ruby Leung, Wondmagegn Yigzaw, Jianshi Zhao, Hui Lu, Zhiqun Deng, Yonas Demisie, and Gunter Bloschl. "Nonlinear Filtering Effects of Reservoirs on Flood Frequency Curves at the Regional Scale." Water Resources Research 53, no. 10 (October 2017): 8277-8292. DOI: 10.1002/2017WR020871.
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